The Dean of Big East Coaches
by Jim Alderson
TSL Extra, Issue #20
The Big East has played round-robin football schedules for nine years. During that period of time seventeen head coaches have plied their trade, sixteen at the seven other schools, and Frank Beamer at Tech. I thought it would be interesting to examine how Frank has done against his Big East peers.
For starters, Frank’s conference record at Tech is 48-15, the most BE wins by any coach, leading Syracuse’s Paul Pasqualoni, the only other coach to spend the entirety of BE life at the same school, whose record in conference games is 43-20.
Here's a rundown of the history of Frank Beamer against the other seven BE schools, including his record against each coach at each school:
Boston College 7-2
Frank lost his only encounter with Tom Coughlin at Boston College, 48-34 in 1993. That year was the last in a successful three-year run for Coughlin at BC; he left after topping the Hoos in the 1993 Carquest Bowl to take over the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL expansion team.
Coughlin was replaced by former Tech assistant (under Charley Coffey) Dan Henning. This was not the brightest move ever made by the brass at BC, as Henning’s penchant for slipshod program management would cause his stay on Chestnut Hill to be a brief one, but not before he and Beamer had engaged in a couple of epic struggles, a 12-7 defensive struggle won by Tech at BC in 1994, and a 20-14 Eagles win in Lane Stadium in 1995.
In their third meeting, in 1996 at Boston College, Henning was battling a gambling scandal and hanging on to his job by his fingernails; his position was not helped when his Eagles were taken apart by Beamer’s Hokies 45-7 in Alumni Stadium on ESPN.
Henning was fired after the 1996 season and replaced by former Hoo assistant Tom O’Brien. Frank has had some good games with O’Brien, so far winning all five from 1997-2001 by scores of 17-7, 17-0, 38-14 in the magical 1999 season, 48-34 and 34-20. O’Brien is one of seven Big East coaches who have never beaten Frank Beamer, and the only one who has lost to Beamer more than once and is still on the job.
Dennis Erickson coached the Miami Hurricanes for the first two years of BE play, and Erickson handled Beamer by scores of 21-2 and 24-3, the only two games those first two years in which the Hokies did not score a touchdown. Erickson scooted out of Coral Gables just before his NCAA probation landed on the Canes and was replaced by Butch Davis. Things got a lot better for Tech and Beamer.
1995’s 13-7 Tech win over Davis’ Canes set the tone for Tech to breeze to its first Big East football championship and a Sugar Bowl win over Texas. Frank was to win four more over Davis, 21-7 the next year in the Orange Bowl, then by scores of 27-25, 27-20 and 43-10 before Butch finally broke through in 2000, a 41-21 Miami win in the Orange Bowl.
Like Erickson before him, Davis left for the NFL, but left a much better program behind. Davis assistant Larry Coker was elevated to the top job and last year won his meeting with Beamer and Tech 26-24, Miami’s toughest challenge on their way to the MNC.
Doug Graber was the coach at Rutgers when Big East play began, and he holds the distinction of being the only Scarlet Knights coach to beat Frank, 50-49 in 1992 on a last-gasp Hail Mary the year before round-robin play began. Things haven’t gone so well for Rutgers since, as neither Graber nor any other RU coach has been able to beat Tech and Beamer, and since Graber, none has come particularly close.
1993 saw a replay of the previous year’s nail biter, this time with Tech holding on for a 49-42 win in Lane Stadium. Tech won another close one the next year 41-34, also at home. Rutgers then decided they wanted something different than Graber’s usual 4-7 records and fired him, and the 4-7 records became a distant memory when they hired Terry Shea.
Shea’s record against Frank Beamer mirrored his trashing of the Scarlet Knights’ program, losing all five by a combined score of 243-60. The only time Shea came remotely close was his first crack at Frank in 1996, when he lost by ‘only’ sixteen, 30-14. The next four years saw Tech victories of 59-19, 47-7, 58-20 and 49-0 in 2000, the year Shea was mercifully fired.
Considering the way his Tech teams hammered the hapless Shea’s Rutgers teams, Frank Beamer was no doubt sorry to see him go. At least until he got a load of Greg Schiano, whose first crack at Tech and Beamer saw the Hokies breeze to a 50-0 laugher.
The opening of Big East conference play in football saw Johnny Majors return to a Pittsburgh program where he had achieved great success in the '70's. Pitt fans expected more of the same, at least until Majors tangled with Frank Beamer for the first time. The 1993 game at Pittsburgh was Virginia Tech’s first conference game since the Hokies left the Southern Conference, and Tech surprised many, including most Tech fans, as they smashed the Panthers by a score of 63-21. It was the turnaround for a Tech team that had gone a miserable 2-8-1 in 1992, and sparked Tech on to an unprecedented wave of football success they are still riding.
Majors never quite got it done at Pittsburgh, and he never beat Frank Beamer, following up the first loss with three more, 45-7 in '94, 26-16 in '95 and 34-17 in '96. Majors gave up trying to rebuild Pitt after that season and retired.
Walt Harris, whose first Panther team shocked Tech 23-30 in 1997, a loss that cost Tech a share of the Big East championship and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, replaced him. Harris has continued to give Frank Beamer fits; Tech won 27-7 in '98, 30-17 in '99 and a taut 37-34 decision in 2000, before Pitt and Harris caught a 2001Tech team dispirited following a loss to Syracuse the previous week and the Panthers pounded Tech 38-7, the thirty-one point margin tying a 52-21 loss at Syracuse for the worst BE loss suffered by a Frank Beamer Tech team.
Since Big East round-robin play began, Tech’s series with Syracuse has produced the conference’s closest rivalry. The teams of Frank Beamer and Paul Pasqualoni have gone at each other nine times in conference play, and Beamer holds a 5-4 lead, which drops to a dead-even 5-5 with Pasqualoni’s win in 1992. The series saw the home team win the first eight, and the visitors the last two.
Tech wrapped up a bid to the Independence Bowl in 1993 with a 45-24 win over the Orange, then lost the next year at the Carrier Dome when Syracuse rallied for a 28-20 victory. Donovan McNabb came on the scene in 1995 and while he never came close to winning at Tech, losing 31-7 in '95 and 31-3 in '97, he held serve at home, leading SU to a 52-21 win in '96 and a thrilling, last-second, come-from-behind 28-26 victory in '98 in the game for the BE championship.
In 1999, it was exit Donovan McNabb and enter Michael Vick, and the Hokies won big, 62-0 in a prime time ESPN extravaganza that vaulted the Hokies into the national consciousness on their way to the Sugar Bowl.
Frank Beamer had never won in five tries at the Carrier Dome until his Tech team won there in 2000 by the score of 22-14. Paul Pasqualoni had never won in four trips to Lane Stadium until his Syracuse team returned the favor in 01 by the same 22-14 score.
Ron Dickerson took over the Temple football program in 1993 just in time for the opening of BE play. Dickerson, whom history is likely to record as the man most responsible for the Owls being booted out of the conference, ran up one of the worst head-coaching records in the history of football, going 8-47 in his five-year tenure. He had no success against Frank Beamer, losing 55-7 in 1993, 41-12 in '94, 38-16 in '95, 38-0 in '96 and 23-13 in '97.
Dickerson was hastily fired following the '97 season and replaced by big Division II winner Bobby Wallace. His Owls came to Lane Stadium in 1998 and pulled off what remains the biggest upset in BE history, shocking the heavily favored Hokies 28-24. Wallace has had no success since, with the Hokies traveling to Veterans Stadium the next year and pummeling Wallace’s Owls 62-7, then easily winning 35-13 in 2000 and 35-0 in '01. Wallace’s chances of gaining another win over Tech and Beamer will soon be drawing to a close.
West Virginia 7-2
The Tech-West Virginia series is a true border war, the only such rivalry in the Big East. It is a spirited clash every year, and had been going on long before the two schools both set up shop in the same conference. Frank Beamer and Don Nehlen had already battled six times before conference play began, and each had won three times, Nehlen in Beamer’s first two years at Tech in 1987 and '88, Tech the next three, and WVU in '92.
The 1993 game at Morgantown was the first of two between the teams that would come down to a field goal; that year a missed Tech attempt allowed the Mountaineers to escape with a 14-13 victory on their way to an undefeated season. The next year Tech began its current domination of the series with a rousing 34-6 Thursday night win at Lane, then won the next two 27-0 and 31-14.
The three-game Tech winning streak was broken at Mountaineer Field in 1997 as Nehlen’s team won 30-17. That was the last time Nehlen and WVU would beat Tech, as the Hokies won 27-13 in 1998, saw a late field goal win this time at WVU in 1999, 22-20, and won 48-20 at Tech in 2000, again on a Thursday night.
Don Nehlen had had enough and announced his retirement late in the 2000 season. Frank Beamer’s record against the venerable WVU coach ended at 9-5, 6-2 in the Big East, including six of the last seven.
Rich Rodriguez took over for Nehlen in 2001, and Frank Beamer promptly made it 1-0 against Rich and seven of eight against WVU, winning 35-0 in Morgantown.
Some Other Big East Coaching Tidbits
The hallmark of a successful coach is consistent winning, and that is exactly what Frank Beamer has done at Virginia Tech. He wins, wins often, and with the current state of the Tech program, is likely to keep winning. The Big East is still a very young conference, but Frank Beamer has established himself as the best coach the BE has yet seen.