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Thursday, July 12, 2012
Longevity lacking in ACC

By Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was hired for $80,000 in 1987.

Talk about appreciation.

What Beamer has done for his alma mater has been priceless, and colleague Gene Wojciechowski captured Beamer’s value perfectly in his latest column. Beamer represents all that is good in college football and the one thing that has been missing in the ACC -- longevity.

The importance of stability to a program can’t be understated. The only coaches who downplay it are usually the ones who don’t have it. It helps in recruiting. It helps in team and staff chemistry, and it helps in basic knowledge and understanding of the system. Virginia’s Mike London will tell you how important all of those things are after just two seasons. It’s taken five years for NC State coach Tom O’Brien to build better depth through recruiting and position the program for a run at the ACC title. Should David Cutcliffe even have a time limit at Duke?

Fans often wonder why the ACC hasn’t been able to rise above mediocrity in recent years and produce a national champion. Part of that can be attributed to the turnover on the coaching staffs, particularly at the top position. It’s happened at both Florida State and Miami, testing the patience of both fan bases. North Carolina is starting from scratch this year with Larry Fedora. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani enters his fourth season with one of the hottest seats in the country.

Look at the conference as a whole, and you’ll see that entering 2012, more than half of the head coaches (seven) have been at their schools for three years or fewer. There have been five coaching changes in the past three years (at North Carolina, Maryland, Miami, Florida State and Virginia). Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the only two programs in the league that can really boast longevity, and it’s no coincidence that Jim Grobe and Beamer are two of the nice guys in the business. Their assistants love working for them. There is a sense of loyalty that lacks at other schools.

Beamer has been able to translate that loyalty into eight straight seasons of 10 wins or more. Grobe led the Deacs to the 2006 ACC title, the school’s first league championship since 1970.

Beamer’s tenure at Virginia Tech obviously isn’t the norm, but it should serve as evidence of what stability can do for a program. Beamer couldn’t remember his salary in his first season, but he sure could remember his 2-8-1 record in his sixth. He won nine games the following season.

Some ACC schools haven’t made the best hires in recent years. The turnover is proof of that.

What Virginia Tech and Wake Forest have is unique. It’s not going to be duplicated anytime soon in the ACC. A little more of it, though, could go a long way.

Here’s a look at how long each ACC coach has been at his respective school:

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: Entering first season

Randy Edsall, Maryland: One year

Al Golden, Miami: One year

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: Two years

Mike London, Virginia: Two years

Frank Spaziani, Boston College: Three years

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Three years

David Cutcliffe, Duke: Four years

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: Four years

Tom O’Brien, NC State: Five years

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: 11 years

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: 25 years