Now that Coach Beamer has announced his retirement at the end of the 2015 season, the question of who will replace him goes from being begged to being an active request. The ultimate question will be, and is within the GC Staff, does Tech hire a place holder coach that bridges the gap between Frank Beamer's considerable legacy and the near future; or does it go out and hire a new face that could be hired to stay with the program long term?
Undoubtedly there is some serious validity to hiring an interim or ‘bridge' coach. Who remembers the guy who replaced Bear Bryant? Not too many folks remember who replaced Woody Hayes or Bo Schembechler, either. Well Frank Beamer is in that group of the college coaching "Who's Who". There is little doubt that the program has been struggling for the past few years; but many fans aren't going to be ready to move on. There will also be the ‘Great Expectations Game', where the fans are going to be looking for an increase in the wins, and a fast track return to the top 20. A purposeful short term prestige coach might help keep the wins on the plus side while the earnest search for a more permanent replacement mixes with the salve of time and distance from the parting with Frank Beamer.
However, there are many very valid arguments in the other direction. Florida State benefitted greatly by having a permanent coach waiting and available. Of course that was an internal promotion and we aren't talking about that in this particular piece. There are many folks in Hokie Nation who are a bit smarter and wiser about the sorts of things that have to happen with program rebuilds. Few folks remember the problems and struggles that Coach Beamer had in his first five seasons in Blacksburg. It took both patience and forbearance to quell the swelling chorus of dissatisfaction. There is no guarantee that this reaction won't happen again, but there is a chance that a more realistic fan base would accept a new coach from a rising program that might bring more promise, energy, and fresh air to the program. It seems to many that the obvious pick is a younger coach with newer ideas, and just enough solid college football experience to show up at Merriman and build on the foundations laid by Frank Beamer without having to live in his shadow. (for long, anyway)
In this spirit, the spirit of long term renewal and reinvigoration there is one potential candidate that we haven't spoken of just yet. He brings the success of a Justin Fuente and combines it with the success of an Everett Withers while still coaching a mid-major football team. It's also important because of the potential attractiveness of the definite step up to Virginia Tech and ACC football the opportunity presents. I suspect that Matt Campbell, the head coach of the University of Toledo Rockets might very well fit those goals.
Who is Matt Campbell?
Matt Campbell as was mentioned is the current head coach of the Toledo University Rockets. The Rockets currently hold a 7-0 record in the Mid Atlantic Conference. They have defeated both Arkansas and Arkansas State (the former a 16 to 12 major upset, and the latter a 37 - 7 blowout. Toledo is a dangerous opponent with a potent offense and Campbell is most responsible for it. He assumed the role of head coach late in the 2011 season, actually just before their appearance in the Military Bowl that year. They won that game which speaks pretty highly of the second youngest head coach in FBS football at the time of his hiring.
Since then Campbell's Rockets have won a total of 33 games and lost 13. They have appeared in three post season bowl games, the fore mentioned Military, the 2012 Famous Idaho Bowl, and the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl. They lost the FIB but won the GoDaddy contest in a real shoot out.
What militates against his coming to Blacksburg?
There doesn't seem to be a money or living condition expectation from Matt Campbell. In fact he seems to enjoy the less grandiose digs of the smaller conferences. His college move to Division III play and his unassuming manner at Toledo speak with quiet dignity about a gifted coach who ditched a scholarship and playing opportunity at Pitt in 1998. He really seems to gravitate to the smaller things with a simpler lifestyle and less lofty expectations.
To read more about him, see the following article on ESPN. It says much about the character of this young man.
Why would he take a coaching job at Virginia Tech?
Besides the improved money situation, what does Virginia Tech have to offer a young head coach who really shuns the limelight of the big game for the joy of the less prestigious glow of a mid-major conference school and team?
For those of us who dream of a life in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area of Montgomery County, Virginia, there is a curious combination that might just appeal to Coach Campbell. Blacksburg is all about the small town life. The life there is of a more moderate Southwest Virginia pace. The mountains and high plateau of the New River Valley are dotted with farms, and open fields. Virginia Tech quietly dominates the area, but doesn't overwhelm... at least until Game Day approaches.
When he was being recruited for Pitt, it was noted that the young Mr. Campbell witnessed Pitt playing Virginia Tech; (it was a loss for us, sadly) but few people with blood in their veins fail to shiver when the Hokies are called out, and "Enter Sandman" pumps up the crowd. We might just have the perfect mix for Coach Campbell, a small town with a big heart, a warm welcome mat, and a BIG Football Tradition.
In the End Why would He Be A Great Choice?
Matt Campbell is a great potential choice for a new head coach for the Virginia Tech Hokies. He would bring a winning spirit, with the determination to build and develop talent. He'd be a great recruiter, and would benefit from a few key hold overs from the Beamer staff. Maybe they'd even build on the energy of a new energetic and accomplished young coach.
I sure hope that he is high on Whit Babcock's "Coaches to Call List" Campbell would be a great fit at Virginia Tech.