Techonomics: How Frank Beamer's Football Program Fuels Southwestern Virginia

An in-depth examination of what Virginia Tech football means for the region, beyond just wins and losses.

[Mark Umansky]

Rita Ferguson never attended Virginia Tech, yet she's a Hokie all the same.

She didn't spend her college days pressing across the Drillfield as Blacksburg's whipping winds battered her from all directions, nor did she furiously cram for finals in a small nook in Newman Library or atop Torg Bridge.

So why is she retiring in Radford, just a few scant minutes from Blacksburg and Tech's campus? It mostly comes down to football.

Ferguson's husband is a Hokie, class of 1973. Her son graduated a full 30 years later in 2003.

But those ties alone don't explain why the Fergusons decided to pick up and move from Williamsburg to the New River Valley once they wrapped up their careers.

"We did not come on a steady basis for a number of years," Ferguson said. "It probably picked up more when my son was on campus, we came to visit him, and it was probably about then that we started with our season ticket purchase also...At that time, it was the Michael Vick era and the team was on fire."

Once the couple's game attendance picked up, so too did their time tailgating. That led to a fortuitous bit of good luck — the Fergusons bonded with three other couples assigned to the same parking lot, all of whom are Tech alumni.

"It's been amazing, we've formed a nuclear group of the four adult couples, and all of their children and grandchildren. It's like a family," Ferguson said. "Now, we're so close. We attend big events in each other's lives, we vacation sometimes together, we go to all the bowls, that's a big vacation for the entire group."

As they spent more and more time in Blacksburg together, Ferguson remembers the group searching for a more financially practical way to pay for lodging during their frequent returns to Southwestern Virginia. Rather than constantly paying for hotel rooms, the couples decided instead to simply buy a condo in town that they could use when they came back for games.

"We decided it was worth the investment," Ferguson said. "It wasn't a huge sum of money, and we all had football season tickets."

As the Fergusons neared retirement age, they decided to make the move permanent, picking out a lot for a home in a community near the Pete Dye River Golf Course in Radford.

"The football draw got us here more frequently and the more we got to know about the town and its offerings, we fell in love with the people in this part of the state," Ferguson said.

In many ways, Ferguson's experience is unique, but in many others, it's downright commonplace.

Not only did the success of Frank Beamer's squads help the Fergusons build an emotional connection with the area, but hidden within that narrative is a more tangible contribution to the community. The Fergusons and their friends poured a huge amount of money into the New River Valley's economy with their frequent visits, and they ended up accounting for a pair of real estate transactions as well.

That likely never would've happened without a football team worth watching, and Tech's teams rarely met that standard before Beamer's return to Blacksburg in 1987.

As the legendary coach prepares for his final home game, there will be an intense focus on the more intangible pieces of Beamer's legacy: The elation of big wins or the pride of the school's stature on a national stage.

But the dollars and cents behind the rise of football in Southwestern Virginia are equally deserving of examination. Accordingly, The Key Play spoke with dozens of business owners, government workers and politicians to understand the financial effects of football on the community, as fans flock to Blacksburg to watch the man largely responsible for such a tremendous economic boom coach one last game in Lane Stadium.

A $69 Million Business

There's no doubt that football's ascension means big business for Blacksburg and the surrounding area, but until this year, there were few concrete figures to reflect its fiscal impact.

In April, VT's Office of Economic Development published a study claiming that football brings roughly $69 million to the New River Valley each year, and supports just under 300 jobs in the region.

The study, commissioned and underwritten by both the athletics department and the Office of University Relations, was the first to examine the subject since 2000, and found dramatic increases in the dollar figures from that last measure of economic impact.

"We could never get a really good handle on sports impacts," said Larry Hincker, the recently retired university spokesman and head of the office. "It really helps contextualize subsets of the university's economic impact. I suspect that the study results are more useful to the community than to us. I see it as a public service."

Sarah Lyon-Hill, an economic development specialist at Tech and one of the study's authors, said her team of researchers spent the entirety of the 2014 football season working on the study, gathering responses through a combination of "in-person surveys during tailgates, phone calls with businesses and a lot of online surveys with both ticket holders as well as businesses." In all, the study examined football's impact on seven counties surrounding VT — Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and Roanoke — and the cities of Radford, Roanoke and Salem.

Lyon-Hill notes that the sizable $69 million figure represents $47 million in direct spending by both the football program and fans and an additional $22 million in "induced spending," a figure that reflects how industries end up generating more money with the added income football generates.

The study also found that Tech's total revenue boost from football stands at about $41 million, with $30 million of that total coming from outside the area.

Additionally, the researchers note that taxes levied on football-related transactions, like meals and lodging, ended up bringing in roughly $1 million for local governments and the state.

While Lyon-Hill notes that the study's results provided plenty of surprises, one area that didn't raise many eyebrows was the series of overwhelmingly positive responses the team received from people in the food and beverage and lodging sectors.

Indeed, large majorities of the businesses in those industries told Lyon-Hill and her colleagues that they saw substantial revenue increases during football weekends. The report concludes that the median revenue boost for restaurants and bars patronized by football fans ranges from 15 to 19 percent, while 23 of the 42 hotels surveyed reported revenue bumps of 30 percent or more.

That news likely isn't surprising to anyone who's ever tried to book a hotel room a few days before game day or stopped by a Blacksburg bar on a Saturday night. Yet the numbers can only tell part of the story.

"Football season takes on a life of its own," said Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam. "The infectious attitude around here that it adds is so positive that it's a lot of fun just to be part of a community like that on a pretty fall day."

"The Ripple Effect of Football" on Businesses

Stephanie Rogol has the good fortune of owning one of the prime destinations for pregame and postgame revelers in downtown Blacksburg: Sharkey's Wing and Rib Joint on North Main Street.

That means that she has no trouble believing the revenue bumps catalogued in the study. In fact, she believes that Sharkey's revenue jumps by a full 100 percent when the Hokies are in town compared to an average weekend.

But she also feels that football brings so much more than dollars and cents to her establishment.

"People are happy, so it really allows us to share in the community on a football weekend," Rogol said. "I think that's good for everything. I think that's good for the spiritual capital of your business, it's good for your employees' morale."

"Just looking at the fans who love their team, who are good fans, not bad's the Hokies' spirit, it's the 'Hokies Respect,' it's the values that Virginia Tech embraces as an organization and the students too that help me have a better business. It's the ripple effect of football."

She admits that football weekends aren't without their challenges, particularly when it comes to staffing. On a normal Saturday, she estimates that the bar needs 22 employees to keep things running, but that number tends to creep up to 28 on a game day.

Even still, she doubts that her payroll expenses rarely jump more than 10 percent with that change, and a simple question of space keeps her from even having the room to add more workers even if she wanted to.

"Pretty much the games are going to (have us) at capacity, you couldn't fit any more staff anyway, so it doesn't matter," Rogol said. "Instead of five bartenders on, we'll have six bartenders on, because you can't have more bartenders. They're just going to be working harder and faster because you only have so much room behind the bar."

She simply depends more on her staff to simply work harder, a challenge that she believes they always meet.

"They would not be happy campers if our guests weren't so good during football," Rogol said. "As much as it's stressful, they're all happy at the end of the weekends because of the fans."

Darlene McGinnis, managing owner of the Main Street Inn, says her experience has been similar when it comes to balancing the boom in business with the increased staffing pressure.

In fact, she says the staff's biggest challenge comes when the hotel needs to start accepting reservations for a new football season.

"We fill for the entire football season in 45 minutes each year," McGinnis said. "We end up selling out most weekends, but football weekends are guaranteed sell-out dates."

Unsurprisingly, that crush of reservations brings with it a windfall for the inn — McGinnis notes that the hotel ups its rates by 50 percent for football weekends, and requires that guests book a minimum of two nights.

Lisa Bleakley, director of tourism for the Montgomery County Tourism Development Council, adds that she hears plenty from retailers about the positive effects of football on their businesses.

"We can't forget about those grocers that do fairly significant business as well for tailgating supplies, party incidentals," Bleakley said. "There's a lot of spin off event activity built around those football games."

Lyon-Hill's study does indeed account for plenty of spending in that area, with an estimated $2.4 million spent on groceries alone and another $2.6 million at other retail establishments.

However, a much smaller number of retailers report seeing revenue increases on football weekends, with 15 of the 26 surveyed reporting gains. That's not to discount the positive effects the sport can have on merchants in the area, merely to point out that other businesses see more of an impact, the researchers write.

"The football weekends, the downtown merchants and at First and Main and on University City Boulevard, they count on that business," said John Bush, a Blacksburg town councilor.

"Hokie Pads"

The experiences of people like Rita Ferguson when it comes to the real estate market was the rare factor surrounding football to raise eyebrows among Tech's researchers.

Lyon-Hill and her colleagues estimate that fans who live outside the region own as many as 4,700 properties in the area.

"It's been over the last five to 10 years, it wasn't overnight that people started buying them, but we've noticed more and more people doing it," said Susan Kaiser, Blacksburg's director of finance.

Amy Hudson, a local realtor and owner of a RE/MAX franchise, says "less than 10 percent" of her sales are to people looking to keep a "Hokie pad" in the area, but that the purchases are still significant.

"They want to come and support the team and be here," Hudson said. "These Hokie houses aren't rented, they come and buy. They tend to be people in their 40s and 50s. and a lot of them have kids in school, because you have the multigenerational Hokies. Mom and dad went here, they met here, they got married here, now 20 years later their kid's 18 and he's coming to Virginia Tech and they buy a house because the kid's younger sister is going to come to Virginia Tech too."

Hudson also notes that most of those sales come in cash, a very welcome factor for simplicity's sake. Even better, she says the process can generate repeat customers, like the Fergusons.

"Over and over again, they will buy a small place, like a condo or small home that they'll use for their getaway weekends," Hudson said. "Then when they do retire, they come here and build or buy a much larger home that would accommodate the grandkids, all the family coming to stay."

Ferguson adds that she has no trouble believing that her family isn't the only one to follow that path, given the makeup of her new neighbors in Radford.

"A good number of the people already established on the street are Tech grads, it's like a little retirement community in itself," Ferguson said. "The surrounding area is kind of like stepping back in time. It's good old fashioned manners and neighbors help neighbors, just a really happy and safe place."

Hudson says that's just the sort of sentiment she hears from her clients all the time.

"They never want to leave Blacksburg," Hudson said. "They were here in college and loved it so much, they keep a pinky toe in Blacksburg until they're ready to come all the way back."

"It's Not Great For Everybody"

For the immense good that many business owners report experiencing thanks to football, Newton's third law still applies.

As fans flock to the bars or eye football condos, their attention is drawn away from other businesses that are less football focused.

"Football's not bad for the community, it's great for most of the businesses in town," said Susan Mattingly, executive director of the Lyric Theatre. "But it's not great for everybody and we have to acknowledge that."

While Mattingly certainly can't deny the crowds that football weekends bring to town, she says they're typically "not in a moviegoing frame of mind," especially given the Lyric's more unique film offerings. But the massive crowds usurping downtown parking also tend to scare away the theater's regular clientele.

"Football weekends are extremely slow for us, typically," Mattingly said. "There's a segment of the population that stays away from downtown on those football event weekends."

The results of Lyon-Hill's study mirror Mattingly's experiences. The researchers found that football visitors spend just an estimated $254,000 per year on arts, music and other entertainment, and each one of the five artistically inclined businesses they surveyed reported seeing revenue decreases on football weekends, with losses ranging from five to 30 percent.

While other businesses may eventually recover that lost revenue, as some locals decide to return once the crowds subside, Mattingly said the nature of the theater business means that isn't a likely outcome for the Lyric.

"I think some of them do come back, but some people will go see a movie on a Friday or Saturday night and if it's a football weekend, they're gone, they're not going to come back on a Tuesday night," Mattingly said.

She added that she's tried to get creative and schedule live events that might "appeal to the football crowds" on the Friday nights before the games in an attempt to mitigate the sport's impact, with little success.

"The people interested in going to football games are not keyed in, so we've given up on that," Mattingly said. "We just try to pull back from big events that would cost us a lot of money and be high risk on football weekends. We just get through the weekend and then it's back to business as usual. It's only eight weekends a year, at most."

It's a problem that the town's mayor admits is a concerning one, and one that has not gone unnoticed among Blacksburg's leadership.

"It's promoting and advertising the galleries and what they have to offer, some of the boutique shops, and it's part of an ongoing challenge and I think we've made great headway in it," Rordam said. "But we can't lose sight of that need, when you come to Blacksburg, if we want you to buy orange and maroon shirts and all the wonderful Hokie gear, we also want you to visit these other shops and realize what options are there."

Policing Problems?

The whirlwind of activity generated by a Tech football game can have negative impacts beyond just chasing away some patrons of the arts.

Between early-morning tailgating and the late-night revelry in downtown Blacksburg, it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that football brings with it its fair share of people who enjoy a few adult beverages. While fans may be ringing up hefty bar tabs, they're also creating costs for the community in more intangible ways.

"As somebody who lives next to the stadium, I've had people urinate in the yard, people defecate in my yard, we have all the usual problems with drunkenness and traffic," said Leslie Hager-Smith, a Blacksburg town councilor. "You could probably make the case that the benefits are largely privatized and the costs are largely borne by the community."

Undoubtedly, there are costs associated with the need to step up the area's police presence and keep the masses under control both at the games themselves and during the celebrations afterward.

Both the Blacksburg Police and Virginia Tech Police failed to respond to repeated requests for comment on the issue, but local officials still provide some level of insight on how football creates costs for the departments.

One main area of tension is the need for extra personnel during the games themselves.

"It puts a strain on the police department because they've got to provide more police officers for the actual stadium and traffic control and crowd control," Kaiser said. "Some of that is paid by the athletic association, and some of that is just normal police services that they have to do because there are larger numbers of people in town for those functions."

Kaiser notes performing those normal functions may more directly burden the town and university departments, but they also get plenty of help from other localities. Specifically, she says that the university, often through the athletic department or the Hokie Club, contracts with the surrounding counties and cities to hire off-duty law enforcement personnel for the games.

Capt. Hank Partin of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says his deputies are among those hired for just such a purpose, and he oversees their work at the games (and will soon take the reins as the county's new sheriff).

Partin notes that his department has provided 30 to 40 deputies for each game for "the past couple seasons," and their duties include checking fans for contraband, responding to incidents in the stadium and directing traffic before and after the game.

As Kaiser noted, Partin says that the arrangement rarely puts any financial strain on his department, since the university covers the cost of their services.

"Each deputy is paid by the hour at an overtime compensation rate that has been set by Virginia Tech and agreed to by the county," Partin said.

The only impact that games have on Partin's office beyond the work of the deputies at the games is a few changes at the county jail. Partin notes that they usually need to send an extra two deputies over to the jail to "assist with the influx of arrestees during the football games."

The more direct effects are felt by the town and university police, as they're the ones tasked with responding to any incidents that crop up after the games conclude.

"I think that the university may not feel it in the same way that the town does because once the game is over, all the activity comes into the town and doesn't really stay on campus," Bush said. "There are people, not many, who are ambivalent about it, with the neighborhood stuff that goes on, some of the public drunkenness and urination and things like that happen in the neighborhoods. I'm not saying the town looks the other way, but realistically, they can't logistically do a lot about it. They try to curb some of the excesses that happen."

There's undoubtedly a challenge associated with allocating resources to curb those excesses, but Kaiser believes that isn't putting any sort of noticeable financial strain on the town's police.

"I think that just becomes normal operating procedure, it's not specifically designed in their budget," Kaiser said. "It's just a fact of life, it just becomes a normal part of their budget. It's not like they're saying they need 'x' more overtimes because they'll be dealing with this, it's built into the structure."

The results of the VT study bear that out. The authors write that both the town and university departments told them that they "increase their staff during game days, with Virginia Tech Athletics paying 50 to 100 percent of the cost." While the police told the researchers that postgame incidents tend to vary based on "game conditions such as the time of the game, opponent, whether Virginia Tech wins or not, and the weather," they're still never overwhelmed on game weekends.

"When it's a close game, it's a close win, I always say 'Good luck tonight,' because there's a lot of celebrating," Rordam said. "But I only really know of one or two experiences, and I've been mayor for nine years, where they've been particularly stressed."

Rordam believes that the biggest reason the two departments are able to keep things under control so effectively, and avoid any exorbitant expenses, is their high level of collaboration.

"Coordination is really outstanding," Rordam said. "Our two police departments work so well together on a daily basis and this is one example. It really is like one department working together."

"A Sense of Pride"

Yet for all the problems expressed by members of the community, all the worries about the public drunkenness and neglect of artistic businesses, there is no disagreement on one key point — Football is indelibly a part of Blacksburg, from its economy to its culture.

"There's such a sense of pride in the university and in the football program," said Bleakley, the county tourism director. "I go to games myself, and I see a good percentage of the community there."

Lyon-Hill's study draws the conclusion that, for whatever negative factors exist surrounding football, they're far outweighed by the positive.

"I thought we were going to get more negative feedback than we did. Really, businesses, pretty much everyone within the region, understands the importance of Virginia Tech football," Lyon-Hill said. "Of all the economic impact analyses that I've been a part of in this office, I think we had the most enthusiastic participation by all stakeholders involved. It was pretty amazing, everyone was eager to tell their story."

Rogol, Sharkey's owner, is among those that are especially ready and willing to tout the sport's benefits, and she has a more unique perspective than most. She's been living and working in the area since 1992, back when football was not nearly the behemoth it is today. Since then, she's watched as the sport has exploded in popularity and success, and the town with it.

"It's just a fantastic town, it's what makes all of our businesses better," Rogol said. "Part of what makes that town so great is we have the Virginia Tech Hokies."

Without Beamer, there's little chance the football program would've reached the cusp of a national championship or joined the ACC. If those things don't happen, it wouldn't just be the team that looked different: It would be the whole region.

"We're bombarded every day with the world in our hand now," Bleakley said. "To be able to have something like a Virginia Tech program, where if you're talking to someone and you're trying to get on their radar and place where you are and what you're all about, that's something that immediately creates that recognition that allows for a broader and more in-depth conversation."

At the absolute least, without Beamer's football program, it's highly likely the area would be short at least one retiree.

"Football is the initial mover, but it's the total package of being in Blacksburg," Ferguson said.

"A good place to retire, I think."


Excellent article, Alex.

I was browsing the VT Yik Yak the other day, and a student said 'Thanks Frank! If it weren't for you, a lot of us would have probably chosen other schools to attend.' Someone else replied and stated that it simply wasn't true - which may be the case, but probably not likely. Frank's tenure as coach and success did a lot for the entire University and the growth associated.

But after VT made their National Championship run in 1999, applications soared, and the campus went through a decade (and then some) of rapid expansion.

I know there is additional data out there, plus what Alex uncovered here, but Frank did a lot for not only the program, but the entire school, the town, the region, and the game of college football. We have been blessed to see the changes under an ethical leader, who cares about his community and his players/coaches.

I was browsing the VT Yik Yak the other day, and a student said 'Thanks Frank! If it weren't for you, a lot of us would have probably chosen other schools to attend.' Someone else replied and stated that it simply wasn't true - which may be the case.

I once read that applicants increased >30% between Vick's first start and his last game. Assuming that no one else like Frank came and created a football team at VT, VT would be completely different. There would likely be a smaller student body, less alumni, and thus, less donations. I think we'd be a lot closer to JMU - smaller student body, less focus on STEM fields (purely because STEM fields typically require more capital to finance).

Without Frank, our university would've attracted a different student body. Our administration(s) would have allocated resources and analyzed/made decisions differently. This would have resulted in a significantly different culture at Virginia Tech.


Twitter me

Completely agree - i just read my comment again and i need to add a couple of words, because what you stated are my thoughts exactly.

I would have attended even without Beamer.

I know that, because I did.

I don't think there's any question that he did a lot for VT football and the university as a whole, but I think making claims like "VT would have been more like a JMU" or "None of us would be VT fans" (as was stated on another thread in this forum) are a little exaggerated, and aren't necessary.

I don't doubt that some people make their choice of university based on sports profiles, or that some are influenced by it. I also don't doubt the "Flutie effect", or in this case the "Beamer effect". A raised profile because of sports is a positive thing.

I think what needs to be recognized is that without Beamer, there would likely be no ACC for us. Hell, we may not have gotten into the Big East even. But the amount of ACC money that fuels and funds University research and partnerships is huge. Beamer built VT Football and that in turn increased the profile of the University as a whole. It's hard to say whether the University would have top programs in Engineering, Architecture, rising programs in Business, and other major research funding without what Beamer did. Without all that, we likely would have been a marginal step up from JMU. It may not be true to say that none of us would be VT fans without him, but many of us may not have known of VT or considered it as a destination. I know you are an older alumni, but the growth since Beamer is significant.

It's hard to say whether the University would have top programs in Engineering, Architecture, rising programs in Business, and other major research funding without what Beamer did.

It's not hard to say that, because VT had top programs in Engineering and Architecture before Beamer was head coach. They were both top 25 programs even then.

That's all I'm saying.

EDIT: Sorry if I'm a bit caustic on the issue. I think Beamer has been influential, and a positive influence. It's just sort of a pet peeve of mine that VT was also pretty awesome when I chose to attend...

But staying power is far different when you consider the amount of funding they get now. The money then pales in comparison. I've been unable to find any historical ranking data to see where VT was before Beamer, but that'd be an interesting thing to look at. My point though is that the image of the University changed with the success of the football team. The University grew, received more funding, saw an increase in applications and student body, and became a household name nationally and not just regionally.

They were both top 25 programs even then.

Would love to see the sauce on this. I know that some programs were ranked high and Engineering has always been the core, but I don't think this is accurate about Architecture. I remember Paul Knox telling me and others that Beamer getting us into ACC with more exposure got Arch massive exposure. And I remember when Arch passed top10, well past when beamer came, and had been consistent top10 for most years following.

We've tangled about this and while your pet peeve is thinking people are saying it wasn't awesome before Beamer mine is reductionist statements about Beamer's impact, which is staggering. Yes VT and the burg was awesome before Beamer. hell, according to my grandfather it was awesome in the late 30's. But just as the school grew, matured and changed from his day to your day the school did so from your day through Beamer. And while it has always been awesome Beamer took VT to heights faster, in a shorter period of time, than ever before. The exposure he gave the school was national. I guarantee you not a single person I knew growing up in the West knew Virginia Tech when I went in 95. But after the 99/00 season every time I went back home people would know. That's game changing exposure.

exposure means dollars. Not just sports dollars, but endowment dollars, research dollars. The more well known a university is the more it attracts. That's just how it works.

So yes, VT has always been awesome. But Beamer elevated it way beyond where it was when he took the job.

You said what I was trying to say a lot better than I did. +1


I mean, I get it, vtkey thinks its insulting to think that VT is a better school now than when he was there, but that doesn't mean VT was a bad school at any point, either. But the fact remains that the exposure we got from having a good football program and having our name out there made more people take notice that we were there, caused more applications to come in, which forced the university to expand. Hell, I graduated nearly 10 years ago, and I'll openly admit that VT is a better school now than it was when I was there, and it really is because of the football program. Getting us into the ACC got us linked up with so many research institutions in the region and has only expanded our footprint.

VT was a very good school before Beamer came to town. But, because of the success he had, and who our peers became athletically, and the exposure we got nationally, we're set up to go from a good school to a great school. That wouldn't be happening if we were still wallowing in independent begging to be included at the big boy table athletically.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

No, I'm not insulted by that. I think it is a better school now, and athletic programs are great exposure.

I love Beamer, and I also love what Beamer has accomplished. I just think people go too far with some of the "VT didn't exist before Beamer" or "VT wouldn't have any research dollars" line of reasoning.

Where has anyone said those two things?

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

If you look back to the first thread where we had this discussion, you'll find the claim that we wouldn't be VT fans if it weren't for Beamer.

You'll also find the claim that VT's increase in research funds were due to Beamer.

You're just looking for reasons to argue and are inventing strawmen or taking statements to be 100% literal when they are clearly not. It is true that many people would not be fans without Beamer. No one is saying that there would be zero fans without him. It is true that VT has benefited from Beamer in terms of research money. No one is arguing that all funding would have mysteriously disappeared had Beamer not entered the picture. But you know what, you're right and Torgersen has no idea what he's talking about.

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

Sure, VT has really benefited from the national sports exposure. Going to a national championship is huge. VT is a lot better known now.

But VT was pretty well-known in engineering and architecture circles before Beamer was head coach. Both of those programs were top-25 already.

I think the prominence of the architecture program has more to do with the people in the architecture department than with Frank Beamer. Otherwise, wouldn't all the other programs be "top 10" as well?

Certainly where they are ranked comes from the work of the professors and people inside the programs, but the exposure, which leads to interest from students, some funding, and many partnerships come from the success Beamer has had. Without the funding and partnerships specifically, would some of those top professors have come to VT? We may never know, but you can't deny that it's certainly a big pull.

Both of those programs were top-25 already.

Engineering I think is true. Architecture I don't believe so. But could be wrong. As I said, would love to see the sauce on that.

I think the prominence of the architecture program has more to do with the people in the architecture department than with Frank Beamer. Otherwise, wouldn't all the other programs be "top 10" as well?

Again, this seems reductionist. Yes, the college of Architecture was not run by Beamer. (A point that nobody has made) Nor was any course taught or any student mentored/tutored or otherwise informed by Beamer in regards to architecture. Yet, there is a failure to recognize what national exposure brings. Specifically increased money but also increased awareness. Would those same professors have come if VT was still primarily a regional Engineering school? Would the amount of research dollars funneled into Tech have been the same? As I demonstrated before the trend says "no" for the money. increases in endowment/research grants/even salaries and numbers of positions all stem from the university's increased market position. That's just how it works. Basic economics.

So yeah, let's say Arch was top 25 when you were there. Well it took from the start of the university until your time to get there. Then in short order it was top ten and consistently top 5 for a while, maybe even still. That's a severe curve there. And being a nationally recognized school was mostly responsible for that, to which football, led by Beamer, established for us.

I'm just saying that if you want to give Beamer credit for the Architecture department's top 10 status, you should bring some sources for that, not just speculation.

I'll give Beamer credit for the football program, but I prefer to give the Architecture program credit for their success.

Certainly, the football team's prominence is good for the university, so everybody wins.

No one person gets credit for the architecture department's top 10 status. Beamer didn't single handedly build the architecture program, but most seem to feel (myself included) that the football program brought a lot of visibility to the school, which brought more applicants and more money, which helped build many programs (including architecture) to levels they hadn't been before.

No one is insulting the school pre-Beamer. We're saying he's helped improve it beyond just the on-field product.

I agree he's been an asset, and has brought more national exposure to the school.

I just think that the professors in the Architecture school deserve the credit for the Architecture school being in the top 10.

not sure you actually read either of the posts explaining it to you. you seem to only want people to support your opinion.

and it should be noted that yours is only a personal opinion. there are facts that supports what myself, alex and the others here are trying to explain to you.

And when you look at both arguments: one side has hard numbers, statistical trends, direct statements from university presidents, deans, professors, officials, as well as local business owners, politicians and alumni and fans that have never attended VT provide allegorical support it paints a compelling, factual argument that Beamer increasing the school's exposure and market awareness had direct, indirect, tertiary, and ancillary impact to the school it's sports and academic programs and all those involved with said programs.

the other side has you stating an opinion supported by no facts, direct nor allegorical, that while Beamer increased exposure it meant little to the school beyond football, because those programs and school were already "awesome".

it is plainly obvious which argument is correct. But if you still believe your opinion I invite you to provide facts that support your claim.

I agree that the football program has aided the university greatly. Beamer gets to take the credit for most of it because he has been the big whistle for so long. But, just to play devils advocate, I think a large amount of the exposure should also be credited to the simple fact that college football exploded around the same time. I mean it was always huge, but in the early 90s, how many Hokie games could you catch on tv? Growing up in the Valley, I did not see young kids walking around in Hokie apparel. Now, I see it everywhere. The timeline coincides with the peak of Hokie football, but college football in general greatly expanded its exposure around the same time.

So, football is still the catalyst, I just don't think it was 100 percent tied to the specific success of the program.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

To play devil's devil's advocate, why hasn't JMU, W&M, or even UVA experienced the same level of growth and national recognition as VT? They all have football teams too. I'd say it's because Frank Beamer put a WINNING product on the field that fueled the national exposure that led to more more money and so on and so forth

"We were at the pinnacle, and we did it for years," Foster says. He pauses, nods, takes a deep breath. "And I did it with the best guy in the business."

JMU doesn't exactly get national exposure, but they are growing like crazy. Their capital improvements may be near to that of VT.

Exposure can be a bad thing for UVA when you are a perennial cellar dweller.

I should have probably pointed out that winning does still deserves a big piece of the credit.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

I'm just replying because I've never been involved in one of these discussions that keeps getting really skinny

"We were at the pinnacle, and we did it for years," Foster says. He pauses, nods, takes a deep breath. "And I did it with the best guy in the business."

Me neither, it's sort of annoying to read on your phone, but leg for the idea. Maybe I can say something like "Thank goodness Frank founded the engineering school or the entire planet would've been vaporized during a Skrull invasion" to generate even SKINNIER replies denouncing my claim and demanding my sauces (vinegar, of course).

totally agree about television exposure. but the amount of benefit you got from television was a product of your program's success. to give another example. Utah used to be relatively unknown program and through its on field success and television exposure it is now part of Pac 12. But that could have been the story for any university out west had they won like they did, with coaches like they've had. same is true for VT. television definitely allowed for exposure to go national faster than ever before but it took Beamer to grab that opportunity to take advantage of that tool to reach national exposure and move the program and school to new heights. And while television increased exposure across the board only a few programs managed to accelerate way beyond the average. that comes down to the big whistle himself.

And as Alex and Alum07, myself and others have pointed out it has meant significant change to the university, directly or indirectly.

it is plainly obvious which argument is correct. But if you still believe your opinion I invite you to provide facts that support your claim.

That's funny. I'm not sure you're reading or understanding my posts. I think the success of VT's football has raised the VT's national profile in a general sense, which is great overall, but I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that Beamer is responsible for the Architecture department's rise to the top 10 in the country.

Seems like the burden of proof for that one should be on you.

haha, sure dude.

My statement and this entire article, and the money all tell same story Beamer's success impacted every facet of the university and community. I didn't isolate the Arch program, you did. Not sure why you are obstinate to opposing views supported by facts, but fine. whatever. you only want to believe your opinion. go for it.

I would have attended even without Beamer.

I know that, because I did.

Just curious - were you an in-state student? I don't doubt that Virginia Tech was, and would continue to be, Virginia's premier engineering school, with or without Beamer, however, I'm not sure that VT would have attracted attention/applications from NJ, PA, MD, NC, SC, GA, etc without the raised profile resulting from Beamer's success.

Twitter me

I was in-state, but I had friends at VT from most of the states you mentioned. I don't doubt that VT gets more applications now, but VT always did well in the mid-atlantic region.

When I took Dr. Torgersen's Theory of Organization class, he directly stated that Michael Vick (and Frank Beamer, by relation) is what has made Virginia Tech the level of academic institution it is today. The Flutie Effect is real.


Dr. Torgersen was a great man/Hokie.

I loved that class. Easily my favorite class at Tech. Ever.

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I'm just going to leave this here. Sarcasm? Maybe, uhhh umm uhhh maybe not.

I had Prather for Diff EQ. Hilarious man and eccentric genius. I still preferred Theory of Orgs.

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I (indirectly) chose VT because of Frank. I wanted a school with a big-time football program and the school spirit it brings. I wouldn't have given Tech a look if it weren't for what Beamer has built

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

I think a lot of people who have no interest in football like to claim that football has no effect on the university because it has no effect on them personally.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Koma conceptualized this article back in April. Really proud of the final product, great job.

Damn, and who would have thought back then it would run right before Frank's final home game.

But seriously though. Great article, and it really is a great tribute of what Frank created in Blacksburg. When people say we're a football school, this is why, in that the entire economy of the region essentially ties into the program on an annual basis.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

Great write up, felt like I was reading a piece in one of the top newspapers.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

So the Roanoke times did an article on this very concept, have to say Alex outdid them. More research, more interviews, more material. Joe and Alex you are knocking this out of the park.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

This was incredible. Good stuff.

shouts out to sam rogers

This was a great article, thanks.

My Mama says that alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth and no toothbrush

Great job. Wrap econ in Hokies football and I can read a whole book on it.

"We were at the pinnacle, and we did it for years," Foster says. He pauses, nods, takes a deep breath. "And I did it with the best guy in the business."

Well done.

Very well done.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Great article. This perfectly describes our plan:

"These Hokie houses aren't rented, they come and buy. They tend to be people in their 40s and 50s. and a lot of them have kids in school, because you have the multigenerational Hokies. Mom and dad went here, they met here, they got married here, now 20 years later their kid's 18 and he's coming to Virginia Tech and they buy a house because the kid's younger sister is going to come to Virginia Tech too."

A $69 Million Business


Hokies United l Ut Prosim

As many as 4,700 properties in the region may be owned by out-of-region football fans, primarily
season ticket holders. Realtors estimate about half of those properties, or 2,350 homes were bought with the expressed intent to attend Virginia Tech football home games.

Pretty interesting study attached.

As a Pulaski County native it's really awesome to hear that people are retiring to the county for any reason. The fact that VT Football is bringing them in just makes it better.

As long as you stay southeast of Dublin/Newbern/Draper Pulaski County can be a pretty nice place, low cost of living, nice scenery, good place to retire overall, but I'm biased.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Another thing to think about: the 460 bypass is a direct result of the need to get 65,000+ people in and out of Blacksburg quickly. Before that all traffic to Blacksburg had to flow from the hospital past the mall and Wal-Mart to the christiansburg rec center creating a conjested mess that people avoid. That area is now booming with new stores and is much easier to navigate as a result. It's quite literally the road that beamer built.

Remember those days all too well. The bypass is fantastic.


oh man, yeah. When we moved my oldest sister in in '94, the traffic was so bad my mom cracked open the atlas to try to figure out a way around it. She just recently stopped using exit 128 "because it's faster than 460"

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

UVA fans used to say (probably still say) that "all dirt roads lead to Blacksburg". Well, Frank paved the hell outta those roads and made them highways.

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I like this post, but....
How the hell cares what Wahoos think!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Without the Southern Gentleman Coach Frank Beamer, I believe that our disciplinary issues would have been exponentially bigger.....Living and playing by the established set of rules, I believe our non-NFL student athlete graduates had a better start to their life after football.....


Great article Alex. As an alum from the late 70's, I think the school is better than it was when I was down there. Obviously, the football program has grown but the B-ball has taken a huge hit since the late 70's. We use to be a powerhouse in the Metro conference but Buzz has them on the way back. One thing I have noticed is the town now embraces the students, that was not always the case in the 70's.

I have now retired and my wife is still working, but we are in the planning stages of selling the house in NOVA and moving to SW VA. Probably just outside of Montgomery county. The way the area has grown is amazing and very conducive to people who want to get away from the madness up here. Coach Beamer might not be responsible for everything but he sure has made a huge impact.

Alex it looks like you inspired some more economic looks at Frank Beamers impact.

BLACKSBURG — Mike Burnop approached the microphone inside the Inn at Virginia Tech conference room to introduce Frank Beamer to Montgomery County like he has so many times before.

Instead of describing a football win or special teams prowess, Burnop, Tech's radio analyst, highlighted the 29-year head Hokie's impact in drawing people to the area.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club