Beamer speaks in simple terms because he was raised in a simple time and place — the 1940s and ‘50s in Fancy Gap, a map dot just on the Virginia side of the North Carolina state line. Every fall, several families gathered on one of their farms to slaughter hogs. Beamer and his older brother, Barnett, were responsible for hauling away tubs of innards.
Beamer’s mother, Herma, was a teacher in the local one-room schoolhouses. His father, Raymond, was a maintenance engineer for the highway department. They owned 70 acres and raised dairy cows, beef cattle, hogs and chickens. Like most families in Fancy Gap, that’s how Herma, Raymond and their four kids got their milk, meat and eggs.
After chores, Frank and Barnett played one-on-one football in the yard. They wore coats with wide fur collars for shoulder pads and winter hats with pull-down earflaps for helmets. Barnett, five years older than Frank, spaced out two sticks. “You’ve got to run between those sticks,” Barnett would say, “and I’m gonna tackle you when you come through here.”
Frank sometimes fussed after getting hit, but always popped back up. He seemed to gravitate toward contact. As a toddler, he plowed his tricycle into the screen down, swinging it open and sending him onto the back porch, down the concrete steps and over the handlebars. When he was about 5, he lost his balance in the back seat of the car, grabbed the door handle and fell out into a ditch alongside a gravel road.
By the late 1950s, Frank was a teenager who had spent most of three years in the hospital after suffering serious burns as a 7-year-old during a trash-burning accident.
There wasn’t much to do in Fancy Gap, besides the occasional weenie roast at the Methodist church the Beamers attended. So Frank and Barnett jumped at the chance to attend Hokies football games with their uncle, Sharrell Allen, who graduated from Tech. They sat on the embankment at open-ended Miles Stadium — Frank’s introduction to Tech football.
“We were just in awe because we were even going somewhere,” Barnett said.
“I was afraid if they got off the phone and had time to think about it, they might take it back,” he said.
When Gov. Gerald Baliles spoke at Tech’s 1987 commencement, he blasted its athletic department.
“I expect extracurricular activities to have a place, and to be kept in their place,” he said.
In addition to the department’s debt, Beamer’s predecessor, Bill Dooley (also the athletic director), broke NCAA rules by awarding too many scholarships and sued the school on his way out. That October, the NCAA eliminated 10 scholarships from the football team for 1988 and 1989, and reduced its recruiting class size by 13 in ‘88 and five in ‘89.
After the sanctions were announced, Beamer called them “unfair,” but it didn’t matter. He had to deal with the complex fallout, as the most prominent coach in an athletic department whose multifold problems worried many at Tech.
“Dire is a good word,” said Paul Torgersen, the College of Engineering dean at the time, who was Tech’s president from 1993 to 2000.
The athletic director who hired Beamer in December 1986 first targeted Bobby Ross, who had just left Maryland. Dale Baughman even asked Ross whom he would hire as an assistant head coach. Ross immediately said Beamer, who worked for Ross at The Citadel from 1973 to 1977.View Entire Story
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