Part three of the new blog series – A Tree Grows in Charleston: The Bloodline of Citadel Football
The name Frank Beamer has been etched on the door of Virginia Tech’s head football coach’s office for 26 years and rightfully so as the legend has accumulated a 216-102-2 record, including an appearance in the 1999 BCS National Championship game, during his tenure in Blacksburg, Va.
But as the saying goes, “Every artist was once an amateur”, and before painting his masterpiece of a career at Virginia Tech, Beamer learned the art of coaching at The Citadel under Bobby Ross and Art Baker.
Along with friend Ralph Friedgen, who headed Maryland’s football team for 10 seasons, Beamer was hired by Ross when he got the head job in 1973. He was initially assigned as the defensive line coach for the Bulldogs before being promoted to defensive coordinator under Baker for two seasons from 1977-78.
But Beamer remembers the challenges that he and Friedgen faced when first arriving at the military college.
“It was right after the Vietnam War so it was a very difficult time, but it helped me learn quickly how to be exact when working with the kids,” said Beamer. “We didn’t always have the best athletes in college football, but we always had the most coachable, smart kids which laid a great foundation for me to start my career.”
Beamer attributes a great bit of his success to what he learned during his time as a Bulldog mentor.
“I quickly learned that you have to be thorough in explaining what you are trying to coach, no matter what level they are at,” added Beamer. “You can’t always assume that they know something. You have to explain it in detail and make sure they understand.”
During his six seasons on the sidelines, Beamer coached a defense that churned out seven shutouts, including a 41-0 beat down over then Southern Conference foe Marshall on Oct. 5, 1978.
Later that month, the Bulldogs topped a very strong Delaware team at Johnson Hagood Stadium in a 21-14 battle when The Citadel earned 14 points collectively from the defense and special teams.
Hmmm … Maybe the coach’s style of play, which is commonly referred to as “Beamerball”, started right here in Charleston?
During his tenure at Virginia Tech the phrase “Beamerball” has been closely associated with Beamer’s ability to rack up points in all facets of the game.
A player at every position on the defensive unit has scored at least one touchdown and 35 different players have scored touchdowns on special teams for the Hokies since Beamer’s first season in 1987.
In 1977, his first season as defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, Beamer, who played cornerback at Virginia Tech from 1966-69, coached three of the conference’s top four leaders in interceptions (Kevin White – 7, Paul Gillis – 5, Felix Hooks – 3).
In his final season at The Citadel, Beamer led a defensive unit that had four players with over 140 tackles to go along with the unit’s 12 interceptions and two all-conference players.
“I learned a lot about recruiting and how it is all about finding the right guy,” said Beamer. “The Citadel wasn’t for everyone, but you know you are going to get smart kids who are disciplined and will receive a great education.”
Beamer left The Citadel to take the head job at Murray State in 1978 where he led the Racers to five winning seasons during his six-year tenure, including a share of the 1986 Ohio Valley Conference title, before taking over at his alma mater in 1987, where he has been ever since.
But Beamer doesn’t forget about how one of the most successful coaching careers in college football history started as he incorporates The Citadel’s famous structure and integrity into conversation each season with his teams.
“To this day, I still talk to all of my teams about my time at The Citadel because of the amount of discipline that those guys had,” finished Beamer.
Stay tuned for the next article, which will feature longtime Maryland Head Coach Ralph Friedgen, who coached both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs from 1973-79.
If there is a coach you feel should be highlighted, or if you have any information on a former coach who you think would be a good fit for this series of posts, please reach out to me via email at email@example.com with some information and I would be happy to help the tree grow!
Assistant Director of Media Relations