By any and all definitions of the word, Bud Foster has paid his dues and then some. Bud was one of Frank's original staff members after playing both safety and linebacker under him at Murray State. That's being on his staff- BETWEEN TWO SCHOOLS- a total of 34 years. Frank is all Bud has ever known. He won the Frank Broyles Award in 2006- that's the award for the best assistant coach in the country, which is no small feat considering the sheer number of schools out there. He's been the DC of the Hokies since 1995. He's been around longer than all of the players on the roster have been BORN. He's basically a Virginia Tech Alum at this point.
Um, here's the odd part...he's getting very little shine in the media for this job.
Yes, ladies and gents. Bud Foster, career Beamer assistant, highly regarded national defensive coordinator, and the energetic excitable guy we all know and love is getting not a whole ton of positive press. So the question is, why is that? People obviously speculate without information, or even with great information, but he tops almost no real media lists. You can put what faith you want in any or all of them, but the fact that he's become so lightly regarded definitely should strike all Hokie fans as odd, and some as outrageous.
Well, below are some potential reasons why Bud's getting the shaft in terms of public perception:
Bud Foster is an in-Offensive proposition.
A simple reason as to why Bud doesn't get any press is that Bud is not anything new or shiny to add to the program. He's a known quantity- elevating him to the head coaching position might give him more prestige and a higher salary, but since he's already a face of the franchise, if you will, you're not gaining as much in potential added interest. A new head coach, especially an offensive minded one, is definitely more of a ‘WOW' move that will attract attention, especially because of how poorly our offense has done over the years- no one will protest that it's been spotty at charitable best and indefensibly bad at the worst. I think that not knowing what that offense would be under Foster or who he would hire or promote (unlikely with the latter, other than maybe Zohn Burden, because we've seen Bryan Stinespring coach an offense) is something that would discourage Whit Babcock from hiring him. We're not sure what his connections would be to get someone that would work with or under him.
Bud Foster isn't a recruiter.
In this day and age, Bud Foster is considered a poor personal recruiter. His PLACE is good for recruiting as ‘this guy can be a great mentor' but when put in charge of recruiting people he hasn't exactly brought in talent to the program. Foster has, in his long career- at least, as long as there have been recruiting rankings- pulled in 4 four star recruits per 247: Wyatt Teller, Ken Ekanem, Ronny Vandyke, and Vinny Mihota. Per Rivals? Tim Settle, Ken Ekanem, Wyatt Teller, Ronny Vandyke (Note: 247 does not list Foster as Settle's recruiter, instead giving the credit to Charley Wiles and Torrian Gray). You can argue that Vandyke was overrated and Mihota is young, and Ekanem has been up and down, and Teller got moved to the offensive line. But in all that time only landing those players? It's kind of perplexing. I know that Tech has done only an above-average job at best at recruiting, but Bud Foster has been out recruited by his assistants and has not been known as a recruiter in his existence here. So while there's likely things he's doing behind the scenes that do help that we don't see, he hasn't done enough to get publicly recognized as being helpful for recruiting.
The defense isn't what it used to be.
In simple statistics, Bud's Defense is starting to get leaky. You can blame talent deficiencies and young players- counterpoint to that being it's up to the coaches to recruit well and get players to stay in the system and develop them to be productive as juniors and seniors- but the raw stats do show that we've had some visible problems. Per the NCAA, the Hokies D has started to sputter a bit- and oddly in every-other-year patterns. 2010 left us 52nd in the nation in total defense. 2012 had us 18th in the nation, 2014 had us 21st in the nation, and right now, we're 57th. In terms of scoring defense, it's only slightly more positive. 2010 had us 26th, 2012 had us 32nd. Meanwhile we were 7th, 11th, and 14th in 2011, 2013, and 2014. So while the defense has been leaky, we've managed to hold water in spite of not having much of an offensive shot. But between this year and last year the OPTICS haven't been as great- especially when dealing with running quarterbacks, which have seen more success against us than we'd like. Part of this is how stupid great our defense was from 2004-2009 which was a top 10 scoring defensive unit all of those years, but we've been outside of it all but one of those years, if only just. We examined it in the pre-season, but Tech currently has an undersized defensive line, undersized and generally ineffective linebackers, and a very young secondary where recently recruited freshmen are beating out seniors and juniors for playing time. The latter point makes more sense if you'd been recruiting well after recruiting badly, but we've been- at least visibly- recruiting on an equal or lower level than we have the past couple years. So while no one's saying that Bud suddenly is incapable of coaching defense, there's been some visible gaps that have developed over the years and an inconsistency that we didn't seen when Tech was in its glory days in the mid-2000s.
This is Whit Babcock's career we're talking about.
Let's not take Whit's own ego out of this. This is the hire that's going to define Babcock's tenure. Who he gets to replace a living legend in Frank Beamer is the biggest question any AD faces this offseason. But considering he replaced James Johnson with Buzz Williams? He got Tommy Tuberville to Cincinnati from the Big XII? That's a man that makes bold moves. Bud Foster is the safe move, the ‘oh, let's just give it to the longtime loyal assistant' good-feeling move. I don't expect a guy with those kinds of cojones to simply pull the lever on promoting Bud, fair or unfair.
This is likely the least important issue, but it's a fact. The Finegate thing sure blew up loudly for a short time, being featured on ESPN and chatted about as one of the dumbest things that the media has ever heard. He wasn't the only one behind it, sure. But he sure was the face of it- defensive coordinator Bud Foster stumbling into talking about a system of punishment that would definitely be a PR disaster if it got out. When the background evidence came out- the fine menu as it were- it sure gave the story legs. If you're a head coach, you have to be aware of that potential problem. The fact that there was a lack of institutional control to turn down what would be an obvious turn-off for both the media and potentially recruits is one thing, talking about it openly to said media in an awareness stumble is another. The ‘ideal' coach is tight-lipped at worst and curt to the media at best. You don't let that kind of thing slip off your tongue as if it was nothing.
Bud Foster has been offered other jobs. He was offered the defensive coordinator job at Texas A&M, and he turned them down. Mark Richt called him for Georgia's job, and he demurred and offered Todd Grantham as a potential replacement, whom Georgia did end up hiring. To his own admission, he has been offered other jobs. At every turn, he's said no. Whether he has believed in the program and is loyal to Frank beyond measure, or he personally has declined everything because he doesn't fit or doesn't want to change positions or go up in rank, Bud hasn't advanced beyond Defensive Coordinator. And he's been good at it. I don't begrudge a man for being loyal or knowing where he wants to be in life- few of us are that admirable or that comfortable.
Bud unquestionably deserves an honest shot and a fair shake at the job if he wants it. The time and effort he has poured into the defense that made him famous is simply astounding. He's given everything he has to the university. But these are the kind of things that Bud might have to answer for, publicly and privately. And they could be why the job isn't his already.