Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Beamer's extension is a bargain for the Hokies

BLACKSBURG — Frank Beamer could have asked for the moon.

The only resistance he would have encountered from Virginia Tech would have been a matter of clarification: with craters or without?

Beamer did not ask for that, nor did he get that. What he got with his four-year contract extension through 2016 — details of which were unveiled Tuesday — was a lot of money and some peace of mind for his post-coaching career.

But by no means was it the max.

Call it a hometown discount. True, a month away from turning 65, Beamer doesn't have the same kind of leverage he once did. He's not going to leave the Hokies for some other school with deep pockets and a need for immediate attention.

But Beamer does retain perhaps the best leverage available: His university views him as a living legend and values him as such.

"We know when we have a good thing going on," athletic director Jim Weaver said, "and we're not about to do anything to dismantle it."

Right there. That's Beamer's cue to ask for $3 million a year, like at least seven of his contemporaries make.

Think Beamer needs a national title before he should ask for a compensation package like Nick Saban's ($5.9 million), Mack Brown's ($5.1 million) or Bob Stoops' ($4.3 million)? Maybe so.

But the least he could get is something matching Jim Grobe ($2.9M), Mark Richt ($2.9M) or Bobby Petrino ($2.7M). Shoot, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz makes $3.781 million per year. His team went 8-5 and played in the Insight Bowl last season.

Beamer will make $2.3 million in the first year of his new contract in 2013. That's only about $133,000 more than he'll make in 2012. Even when the deal reaches its max value in 2016, the coach will make a shade over $2.65 million.

Yes, that's a ridiculous amount of cash.

It's also a bargain.

If the Hokies beat East Carolina on Saturday, Beamer will earn his 200th victory at Tech. We could be talking about 250 wins or more before his tenure ends. Both he and Weaver made it clear that 2016 will not necessarily be the coach's final year at the helm. (Weaver, too, said he's now entertaining the possibility of going beyond his own contract that ends in 2015, provided his health will allow. That's a change from Weaver's long-expressed plan to retire at age 70.) As long as he's healthy and winning, Beamer wants to go longer than 2016. Expects to go longer, even.

"I think our recruiting's the best it's ever been," he said. "I think my staff's the best it's ever been. I feel like the football organization is the best it's ever been. I look forward to the best days ahead."

When Beamer's coaching tenure does end, he'll immediately enter an administrative position that will pay him $250,000 a year for eight years. His job title will be "special assistant to the athletics director," with his primary role being fundraising — something he already does plenty of as coach.

Both Weaver and Beamer say they hope this arrangement, designed to be both a reward and a job, can create an amicable situation when Beamer hangs up his whistle.

"What I think's important for Virginia Tech — for both sides — is it's not awkward at the end," Beamer said. "Whenever the end is, I don't want it to be awkward. We've figured out how we're going to do the ending. I think that's important, myself - for everybody concerned."

Still, there's no way to guarantee it won't be awkward. The landscape could look much different three years from now than it does today. Ten-win seasons can become five-loss struggles. Happy boosters can get restless in a hurry.

That's why, at some point, Beamer would be wise to declare a specific year his last. That way, he can take a victory lap, get all the accolades he deserves and move on, with the record in that final season being a footnote.

But that doesn't need to happen yet. The program is strong. The coach is in good health.

And however long that lasts, the Hokies will be getting a steal.

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