- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

Bud Foster arrived on Virginia Tech’s campus 22 seasons ago as a young and promising coach with an eye on running his own program one day.

He’s a grandfather now.

Somehow, he’s still looking for that first head-coaching job.

Every so often, some school comes along and courts Foster, one of the defensive masterminds in college football. Yet those interviews never lead to a hiring, so Foster just stays committed to his job running the Hokies’ defense.

This season might have represented the coordinator’s best work.

Virginia Tech - which lost seven defensive starters from last year’s squad - finished the regular season ranked seventh nationally in total defense, and it’s that side of the football that carried the 21st-ranked Hokies (9-4) past No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2) and its high-powered spread offense in the Orange Bowl on Thursday night.

“I’ve got a good job, great job, and I’ve looked at some jobs that I think would be right for me,” Foster said. “The right one hasn’t worked out, but I don’t lose any sleep over those things. I really don’t. I don’t cry at home, ‘Boy, I wish I got that job.’ I don’t. I’ve got a great job. It’s a win-win all the way around, so I’m fortunate that way. Not everybody has been as fortunate in this profession as I have.”

The Hokies see it as a win-win as well.

It’s almost uncanny how coaches take jobs in Blacksburg, Va., and never leave. Coach Frank Beamer is finishing his 23rd season at his alma mater. Running backs coach Billy Hite, who’s also the associate head coach, has been there 31 years. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, 16 years. Defensive assistant and recruiting coordinator Jim Cavanaugh is almost a new guy, having served 13 years.

In all, Beamer and his staff have nearly 130 combined years of coaching experience on the Hokies’ sideline.

“You hope they’re going to stay with you forever,” Beamer said. “The main coaching positions there, I’ve been able to keep in place. I think it helps you a lot as far as being a consistent winner, and you can kind of go back and look at the number of bowl games consecutively we’ve gone to and being one of [three] teams that have a chance to win 10 ball games for the last five years, I think all that goes into it.”

Indeed, the results are indisputable.

Virginia Tech has been to bowls in 16 straight seasons - only Florida and Florida State can also say that these days - and if the Hokies win on Thursday, they would join Southern California and Texas as the only programs to win 10 or more games in each of the past five campaigns.

And by now, everyone knows exactly what everyone else is thinking. In-game strategy sessions among coaches sometimes last only a few seconds simply because the Hokies’ staff by now has seen just about every possible situation.

“There’s a thin line between winning and losing,” Beamer said. “We’ve been on both sides of it, so that probably keeps us going.”

After more than two decades at Virginia Tech, Foster feels the exact same way. But a few weeks ago, there was a distinct sense Foster finally would be calling those moving trucks.

He was on the short list to replace Tommy Bowden at Clemson, which Beamer announced on the night Virginia Tech lost in Miami to their ACC rival Hurricanes. Less than two months later, the Hokies are back in Miami, Foster is still with the team and Clemson opted to make interim coach Dabo Sweeney the permanent boss there.

If Foster - who reportedly makes nearly $500,000 a year - was disappointed, he’s not letting it show.

”I work for, I think, the best head coach in college football,” said Foster, who won the Broyles Award in 2006 as the nation’s top assistant. “I’ve been with Frank for a long time. You know, I get paid well. I’ve got a great contract. I’ve probably got a head coach’s contract as an assistant coach. That’s part of it, too. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

It’s not unusual for defensive coaches to feel that they’re overlooked, and there seems to be a clear sense that the hot names for most coaching jobs are offensive whizzes.

Miami coach Randy Shannon only interviewed for one other job when he was the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator. Florida’s Charlie Strong is often mentioned but never hired. Florida State’s longtime defense guru, Mickey Andrews, last was a head coach at North Alabama in 1976.

Foster doesn’t mind being mentioned in that company.

“I know defenses win championships,” Foster said. “They always talk about offense puts fans in the stands and those type of things, but hey, we can hire good people, too.”

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