- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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New Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said all the right things during his introductory news conference Wednesday, most especially when it came to his expectations for coach Frank Beamer.
But the questions are only just beginning. Make no mistake -- Babcock and Beamer are now inexorably linked together for better or worse. The last two seasons have been trying for both Beamer and the football program, which hasn't won the way anybody is accustomed to in Blacksburg.
Given the twin disappointments of 2012 and 2013, the pressure is on to deliver a consistent 10-game winner and ACC championship contender once again, the way Beamer did for so many seasons until this recent stretch of adversity hit.
Babcock, then, steps into a delicate situation. Will he have to make a tough decision about the direction of the football program before Beamer is ready to leave? Or will he allow Beamer to coach out the string, so to speak? If Babcock hangs around as long as he says he will, then he will ultimately be charged with finding Beamer's successor no matter when that day arrives.
Or how it arrives.
Not surprisingly, he was asked multiple questions about Beamer, his philosophy on hiring coaches and whether he felt pressure knowing that he might end up being the one to have to hire a new football coach and replace a legend.
"I've done no succession planning for Frank Beamer at this time," Babcock told reporters. "I'd like to be on the job a lot longer than that. ... Pressure? Absolutely there's pressure any time you replace a Hall of Fame, legendary coach, you'd feel pressure, too. But I hope he coaches for a long time, wins a lot of games. In many facets, he's the brand of Virginia Tech athletics. I'm much more interested in finding out what I can do to support coach Beamer than I am at this point of eventually having to replace him whenever that time may be. He's a legend, he's a Hall of Famer, and I can learn a lot from him."
The two spoke on the phone after Babcock accepted the job, and more conversations will follow once the new AD officially starts next month. The goal when he settles in on campus is to do an evaluation of the entire athletic program before deciding how to move forward as an entire department.
"I don't have any time frame for anything," Babcock said. "We will have a sense of urgency, but we're not going to change for the sake of change."
Maybe not. But whenever change does come to the football program, Babcock will be the one under the microscope.
5hDavid M. Hale
1dDavid M. Hale