Absent the deed to Lane Stadium and free calzones for life at The Cellar, about the only bait left for Tech to dangle is college football's trendiest title.
Wisely, athletic director Jim Weaver continues to resist designating Foster, the Hokies' defensive coordinator since 1995, as Frank Beamer's successor.
The issue first emerged 13 months ago when Foster interviewed for Clemson's head-coaching gig — the Tigers later elevated interim Dabo Swinney — just as Texas was naming defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as Mack Brown's eventual heir.
Many Tech faithful called for Weaver to lock up Foster rather than risk losing him, particularly to an ACC rival such as Clemson. But Weaver said that he, university president Charles Steger and Beamer opposed the idea.
Nothing has changed.
"That is not a concept that President Steger, Frank Beamer or I am in favor of," Weaver affirmed from Atlanta, where the Hokies are preparing for Thursday's Chick-fil-A Bowl against Tennessee.
Weaver and school officials crafted the annuity for Foster after Georgia, Florida and Florida State inquired of his coordinator services. The deal guarantees Foster an undisclosed sum if he remains at Tech through the 2014 season.
The principals have agreed to the amount, Weaver said. But he declined to reveal specifics until after the bowl.
Don't know about you, but the hunch here is well north of $1 million.
Regardless, Foster already is among the nation's highest-paid assistant coaches. A USA Today survey of public colleges ranked his $402,000 salary this season — he made $184,000 in 2004 — third among ACC programs behind Florida State's Jimbo Fisher ($629,000) and Maryland's James Franklin ($469,000).
Fisher was, and Franklin is, a head-coach-in-waiting. And neither has enjoyed a smooth tenure.
Maryland designated Franklin, the team's offensive coordinator, as Ralph Friedgen's successor in February. The Terps promptly finished last in the ACC's Atlantic Division at 2-10 overall, 1-7 in conference, the first 10-loss season in program history.
Worse for Franklin, his offense struggled, even before quarterback Chris Turner missed time with a knee injury. Maryland ranked 103rd nationally in total offense, 99th in scoring.
Anything resembling those numbers next season, and athletic director Debbie Yow would be hard-pressed to retain Friedgen or Franklin. Buying out Friedgen — his contract runs through 2011 — would cost about $2 million, and Franklin is owed $1 million if he isn't promoted when Friedgen exits.
Fisher will replace Bobby Bowden, the reluctant retiree, following Florida State's Gator Bowl appearance Friday against West Virginia. But Fisher's three seasons as offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting were marked by defeat and division.
As the losses mounted — the Seminoles are 22-16 overall, 13-11 in the ACC, since 2007 — the coaching staff splintered. Old schoolers such as Chuck Amato and Mickey Andrews were unflinchingly loyal to Bowden, who clearly had lost his fastball; others were eager to start the new regime.
The infighting was predictable and protracted and contributed to a dynasty's continued decline.
Not to say predetermined successions are doomed to failure. If the transition time is brief and agreed to beforehand by all parties — the departing coach cannot be allowed to linger — recruiting and fund-raising can proceed with minimal interruption.
The most striking example is Purdue basketball.
In 2004 the Boilermakers hired Southern Illinois coach Matt Painter, a Purdue alum, to serve one season as an assistant and Gene Keady's designated successor. After a 9-19 finish in Painter's first season as head coach, the Boilermakers have earned three consecutive NCAA tournament bids, advancing to at least the second round each year, and they were 11-0 and ranked fourth nationally entering Tuesday's Big Ten opener at Iowa.
Purdue took the same path in football, naming Eastern Kentucky coach Danny Hope as Joe Tiller's replacement one year in advance. The Boilermakers were 5-7 this season, Hope's first as the boss, and upset eventual Big Ten champ Ohio State while improving upon their 4-8 record of 2008.
A year ago, Oregon appointed offensive coordinator Chip Kelly to succeed Mike Bellotti as head coach. Three months later, Bellotti stepped down to become athletic director, and this season Kelly guided the Ducks to the Pacific 10 championship and a Rose Bowl invitation.
Such a plan might work at Virginia Tech when Beamer approaches retirement. But at age 63, and after 23 seasons as his alma mater's coach, Beamer has shown no such inclination.
When he does, Foster, the architect of a perennial defensive power, will merit serious consideration. If Foster has proven himself a capable head coach elsewhere, all the better.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime