Beamer's hiring 25 years ago inspired, historic for Hokies, Baughman

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Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, shown here after a win at Virginia in 2005, enters his 25th year at Tech. (MARK GORMUS, Associated Press / August 27, 2011)

The bedsheet banner, hanging outside a Jamerson Center window, begged him to stay.

"Dutch Don't Go We Need U"

But Dale T. "Dutch" Baughman is a cowboy by birth and a rebel at heart. After six contentious months as Virginia Tech's athletic director, he headed home to Texas.

It was June 4, 1987, and the man Baughman hired to guide the Hokies' football program had yet to coach a game at Lane Stadium. No farewell was going to be more difficult.

"I'd steal a hot stove for Frank Beamer," Baughman says today.

As would legions of Virginia Tech faithful.

Beamer has led the Hokies to unimagined heights, and Saturday he begins his 25th season as Virginia Tech's head coach, remarkable longevity in a most nomadic profession.

All of which makes Baughman's hiring of Beamer not only the most significant moment in Hokies history but also the most inspired.

Inspired because Beamer, a 1969 Virginia Tech graduate, wasn't the most credentialed candidate. One of his mentors was.

So if you believe much of life's turns are fated, that some things are just meant to be, this is a story for you.

"When you are in a position to hire a coach," Baughman says, "especially a coach of a high-profile sport, that hire might as well be a tattoo on your forehead, because it is going to be with you for the rest of your life, good or bad."

Baughman's position was uniquely awkward.

He arrived at Virginia Tech in December 1986 to succeed Bill Dooley, who doubled as the Hokies' football coach. On Dooley's watch, Tech had violated NCAA scholarship limits, prompting his exit from both positions, effective Dec. 31, the same day his team was to play North Carolina State in the Peach Bowl.

So while Dooley prepared the Hokies for the bowl — they won 25-24 on Chris Kinzer's field goal at the gun — and the NCAA pondered sanctions, Baughman searched for Dooley's coaching successor.

"Early on," Baughman says, "my focus was on Bobby Ross."

With good reason.

A VMI graduate and Richmond native, Ross had coached Maryland to three ACC championships in five years. But amid campus-wide turmoil caused by basketball All-American Len Bias' fatal cocaine overdose, he had just resigned.

Surely Ross, with a sterling 39-19-1 record at Maryland and NFL experience as a Kansas City Chiefs assistant, was the most qualified applicant.

"Timing is everything," Baughman says. "Bobby had just left Maryland, and I mean like the next day he was in Richmond, visiting his mother if I'm not mistaken, and I contacted Bobby and arranged to visit with him. …

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