#5. Bud Foster

There's not much you can say about Bud Foster that hasn't already been said. We ran the numbers a year ago and decided (we're biased) that Bud is the best in the business when it comes to coordinating college defenses. At the time of that linked article (February 2009), Foster's defenses had finished in the top ten in total defense five straight years (2004-2008).

In 2009, the Hokies faced a big rebuilding job and some injury problems, and they recovered from a slow start to surge to 12th in the nation by season's end. That broke the string of top-ten finishes, but it was still a remarkable job of coordinating, considering that Foster's best defensive tackle (John Graves) played on a bum ankle for the second half of the season, his best corner (Stephan Virgil) had a bad knee, and he replaced his backer mid-season (bumping Jake Johnson in favor of Lyndell Gibson). It helped that Foster had uber-whip Cody Grimm to help out.

The last six years of top-notch defenses are a fantastic turnaround from 2003, the low-water mark in Bud Foster's coaching career at Virginia Tech. The Hokies finished 51st in total defense that season, but the defense was worse than that by season's end, giving up an average of 459.6 yards and 35 points over the last five games. Those averages, if projected out over the whole season, would have put the Hokies 108th in total defense and 103rd in scoring defense in 2003.

Foster's players, most notably his defensive backs, were out of control, and his scheme had some weaknesses that particular teams, most notably Pittsburgh, were exposing.

With the help of his head coach, Foster cleaned up the discipline problems, tweaked the scheme, and directed defenses that finished #4, #1, #1, #4, and #7 from 2004-2008.

Foster admittedly has the advantage of working for a head coach whose entire football philosophy is advantageous to the defense. Frank Beamer plays ball-control offense and emphasizes field position, factors that contribute to defensive success. But the world is full of people who are given the tools and support to get a job done, yet they still screw it up. Bud Foster isn't one of those people. He excels.

As the decade comes to a close and we start the next one, Foster hasn't lost any of his intensity and his drive to succeed. At a time when others might be resting on their laurels, Foster has been presented with more motivation in the form of the perfect arch-villain, the Joker to his Batman: Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson.

Paul Johnson is the first coach since Pittsburgh's Walt Harris to present a consistent threat to Bud Foster's Virginia Tech defense. Foster never got to settle the score with Harris, because the Hokies moved from the Big East to the ACC in 2004, and the series with the Panthers came to an abrupt end. But the next decade sets up as an annual battle between Johnson and Foster that will go a long way towards settling the legacy of each man at his respective school. How Foster and Johnson fare against each other could literally determine the champion of the ACC's Coastal Division each season. It already has, for the last two seasons.

Beyond the great run of success in the last decade, and beyond the battles with Johnson that shape up in the immediate future, Bud Foster's position in life ten years from now could be very different. Frank Beamer probably won't be Virginia Tech's head coach a decade from now, and the logical question is where that will leave Bud Foster. He's #5 on our list for the last decade; will he be #1 ten years from now?

#4. Seth Greenberg

Of all the major players in Virginia Tech athletics in the last decade, none had a higher mountain to climb than Seth Greenberg. Greenberg inherited a program from Ricky Stokes that was, frankly put, an embarrassment on the court. Off the court, Stokes was a gentleman, and his players and his program generally stayed out of trouble, but on the court ... sheesh, the Hokies were bad.

In Stokes' four-year tenure (1999-2003), the Hokies went 45-70 (18-46 in conference). Stokes coached one year in the Atlantic 10 (16-15 overall, 8-8 in conference) and three dismal years in the Big East (29-55 overall, 10-38 in conference).

Under Greenberg, the Hokies instantly got better. He turned senior Bryant Matthews into the Big East scoring leader in 2003-04 and rode him and a promising trio of freshmen (Coleman Collins, Zabian Dowdell, and Jamon Gordon) to a 7-9 conference record, good enough for eighth place and Tech's first-ever Big East Conference Tournament placement.

Since then, Greenberg has cranked up the volume with four top-four conference finishes in just six years of ACC play, and he has taken the Hokies to four NITs and one NCAA Tournament in six years, a postseason run not produced since Charlie Moir's 1980s Tech teams won a bunch of games. Greenberg has twice been named ACC Coach of the Year.

One of the most remarkable things about Seth Greenberg's tenure at Virginia Tech is how well he understood the program and what it needed, right out of the gate. Greenberg's opening press conference when he was hired was full of comments that managed Hokie fans' expectations and set the tone that there was a long road ahead. Greenberg knew that it was going to take many years to rebuild the Tech program, to make it a force on the court and to gradually improve recruiting, fan interest and attendance. Greenberg has worked tirelessly to improve the program on all fronts.

That rebuilding process is far from over. Virginia Tech's near-misses at making the NCAA Tournament rankle Greenberg and the fan base, and he continues to work at making Virginia Tech's roster deeper and more talented. As far as Virginia Tech has come under Greenberg, there is still a lot of ground to be covered.

In much the same way that Bud Foster benefits from Frank Beamer's philosophy, which sets Foster up to succeed, Greenberg's tenure at Virginia Tech was turbo-charged by an offer of ACC admission just three months after he was hired. And much like Foster, Greenberg has leveraged that built-in advantage into success. Capacity crowds have returned to Cassell Coliseum after nearly 20 years of mostly-sparse attendance, and fan interest in Virginia Tech basketball is on the rise.

It bears repeating that Greenberg's biggest accomplishment, in our opinion, is that he has built the program without taking shortcuts or playing loose with NCAA rules. Greenberg has very high standards for himself and refuses to get down in the mud and wrestle with the pigs that infest college basketball, most notably recruiting.

Greenberg has reaped the financial rewards of his work, going from an opening compensation package of $430,000 upon his hiring in April of 2003 to a new contract in Spring of 2010 worth $1.2-$1.3 million a year. (That figure is unverified, as an Internet search did not turn up terms of Greenberg's contract.)

As good as the last decade was for Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech basketball, the next decade holds the promise of being even better. There is still plenty of room between the program and its potential ceiling. Greenberg appears to want to stay at Virginia Tech for the remainder of his career (he is 54), or at least until he has built the program as far as he can build it.

#3. Jim Weaver

13 years after the start of his tenure at Virginia Tech, Director of Athletics Jim Weaver remains one of the most enigmatic figures in Hokie athletics. He is a private person, very formal when talking, and downright stiff at times. Although Weaver jokes often, he rarely smiles, and he is not a magnetic, approachable person. But regardless of what you think of him, there is no denying that Weaver has been an excellent captain of Virginia Tech's athletic ship.

Jim Weaver is one of the best representatives of a new breed of athletic directors who have taken over college athletics in the last 15-20 years or so, a group of men and women who are much more business-savvy than their predecessors, manage ever-growing groups of employees, navigate ever more complex legal and NCAA rules and restrictions, and generally function more as high-level CEOs than as back-slapping fund raisers.

Jim Weaver is driven by the belief that if you take care of money and facilities in college athletics, the rest will take care of itself. He has run Virginia Tech athletics solidly in the black the entire time he has been in Blacksburg, and he has presided over a massive expansion of the Virginia Tech athletics infrastructure, led by an expansion of Lane Stadium from 2000-2005 that cost nearly $100 million.

To be sure, Weaver has benefited from a meteoric rise in revenue over the last decade, driven by Frank Beamer's football program. As revenue has risen, Weaver has shown restraint on the expense side of the house and has refused to expose Virginia Tech's financial flanks, a trait that has served the athletic department very well during the current financial downturn. Thanks to Jim Weaver's fiscally-responsible way of running things, most or all Virginia Tech employees kept their jobs even as revenue and contributions stagnated in recent years.

Weaver has made his mistakes. The public perception that he nearly ran Frank Beamer off almost ten years ago still lingers, and his hirings of Ricky Stokes (admittedly in the decade of the 1990s, not this past decade) and Beth Dunkenberger led to steep declines in two of Virginia Tech's most visible sports.

But Weaver has also overseen improvement in Virginia Tech athletics performance across the board, resulting in top-50 finishes in the Director's Cup standings the last three years, an achievement that appeared almost impossible as recently as seven years ago, when the Hokies were #112 and had never finished higher than 63rd.

When Jim Weaver was hired in 1997, Virginia Tech's athletic department needed to be dragged out of its small-thinking mindset and into the modern era, and Weaver has accomplished that. His disciplined oversight of Virginia Tech athletics and his long-term thinking and planning were as responsible as any other factor for getting Virginia Tech into the ACC. Long before the ACC came calling, Jim Weaver (and Minnis Ridenour and others) had the Hokies ready.

Sadly, Weaver's time as Virginia Tech's athletic director is growing short. In the summer of 2004, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, a condition he made known to the public in 2006. Because he is such a private person, it is unknown how much longer he will be able to function as athletic director. Those who know him say his mind is "still sharp as a tack," though the disease is starting to take its toll on his body.

When Weaver does decide to retire, it's unlikely that Virginia Tech will replace him with a better athletic director. The hope is that the next one will simply be as good. It was a decade of great accomplishment for the head of VT athletics.

#2. VT Fans

When the last decade dawned, Virginia Tech was coming off their first-ever season of selling out home football games in 1999. Season tickets cost $138 for six games in 2000 ($23 per game), and Hokie Club donations reached the $10 million mark for the first time during the 1999-2000 academic year.

Going into the 2000 football season, Virginia Tech had just increased their stadium capacity from 51,907 in 1999 to 56,272 in 2000, through the addition of bleacher seating in the North and South end zones.

Ten years later, Virginia Tech athletics has been completely transformed, as has the experience -- and cost -- of being a Virginia Tech fan.

Football season tickets sell out annually, despite Lane Stadium being much larger (now 66,233 seats) and season ticket prices escalating rapidly to $336 for seven games ($48 per game).

Hokie Club donations accelerated during the last decade, topping the $20 million mark in 2004-05, just five years after going over $10 million. Since then, despite the faltering economy of the last few years, contributions have stayed consistently above $20 million.

Through the generosity of Hokie fans, capital projects of well over $100 million have been undertaken and completed in the last decade, from the South end zone ($37 million) and West Side ($52.5 million) expansions of Lane Stadium, to the construction of a new basketball practice facility ($20 million) and a new football locker room (reportedly $18 million).

Fans of Virginia Tech athletics have built a national reputation for their fervent devotion to Hokie sports, from bowl game attendance figures to the iconic "Enter Sandman" entrance for football. With ACC membership, even Cassell Coliseum has returned to the loud, raucous atmosphere it was back in the 1960s through 1980s.

While individuals like Frank Beamer and Jim Weaver have set the course of Virginia Tech athletics over the last decade, they couldn't have achieved what they've done without the unflagging and generous support of tens of thousands of Hokie fans.

As we enter the decade of 2010, the ability of Hokie fans to give yet more money, buy more tickets, and travel to more and more games seems to be reaching its peak. Some of that may be due to the economy, some of it may be due to the drastically rising cost of athletics, and some may be due to fans simply opting out after a decade of frantic, non-stop support. Whatever the reason, Hokie fans had a remarkable decade from 2000-2009, did more than their share, and are to be commended for their support of all things Hokie.

#1. Frank Beamer

He is, of course, the shoo-in choice for Top Person of the Decade. Take a look at every other person on this list, and it's clear that Frank Beamer is the force that has pulled everyone along in his wake for the last decade.

Without Frank Beamer's accomplishments as head football coach at Virginia Tech, the fans wouldn't support Virginia Tech athletics like they have, Jim Weaver would not have had the money and support to do what he has done, the Hokies wouldn't have over $1 million for Seth Greenberg's new contract, Bud Foster would be coaching somewhere else ... you get the idea. Everyone on this list is here because of Frank Beamer.

As the decade dawned in January of 2000, Beamer was at the height of his popularity with Virginia Tech fans and could do no wrong. Four days after the decade started, he nearly coached his Hokies to victory in the national championship game, just eight years after floundering to an embarrassing 2-8-1 season. Beamer was the toast of Hokie Nation.

The following fall, and for the next few years, things got difficult. First, there was the gut-wrenching showdown with Jim Weaver that almost drove Beamer out of town and into the arms of UNC. While Hokie fans rallied to support Beamer and were relieved beyond comprehension that he stayed, the mere notion that he would leave his alma mater for an ACC school that many Hokie fans despised was unpalatable to many. Beamer spent a lot of goodwill during the frantic weekend of November 25-27, 2000.

Hokie fans still loved Frank, of course, but the love wasn't blind anymore. Then came the early departure of Michael Vick after the 2000 season, and three straight years of late-season collapses from 2001-2003. Some Hokie fans openly questioned whether the game had passed Beamer by.

On the field, Beamer reasserted control of the football program and won three ACC championships from 2004-2008, cementing his legacy as a great football coach, instead of a guy who just got lucky with good quarterbacks and good defenses in 1995, 1996, and 1999.

Off the field, he took a lot of heat for his unflagging support of Marcus Vick, even as the younger Vick spiraled down into evermore embarrassing feats of poor behavior. And his decision to promote Bryan Stinespring to offensive coordinator at the end of the 2001 season has come under, shall we say, a little scrutiny.

Throughout the difficulties of the last decade, which are part and parcel of being a head football coach at a major Division 1A university, Frank Beamer stayed the course, did things his way, and in the process elevated himself from simply popular to iconic status.

Six conference championships, 17 straight years of bowl games, and six straight years of winning ten games or more have dulled our senses to what tremendous accomplishments those are. Most of them have come in the last decade, when Frank Beamer established himself as a legend and pulled many of us, this web site included, along with him for the ride.

Top Person of the Last Decade? Sure. Of the next decade, too? That would be nice.