From 2001-2020, The ACC Coastal teams Virginia Tech and Miami played every year. The overall record of the matchups between these two teams is 10-10.
While many of these matchups were close both on the field and in the lead up to the game (Vegas only predicted a double-digit winner in only 4 of these matchups), it's important to point out the vastly different amount of talent amongst these two programs.
Miami nearly had 50% blue chip recruits over this time frame. Virginia Tech sat right around 20% over this same time. So what gives? How could these two programs compete so closely?
In fact, Vegas went 14-6 in predicting the winner.
Let's look at the margins. How do lower-ranked kids eventually make it in to the FBS?
As it happens, many teams west of the Mississippi river have a local resource in recruiting in their Junior Colleges. Junior Colleges are a pretty good deal for underappreciated athletes; play 2 years under scholarship, hope to impress some college coaches, and play out your college career in front of lots of fans at an FBS stadium.
East of the Mississippi, Junior Colleges are scarce. There's a league in Mississippi and another in New England, but they're not among the top leagues. You could always take an FCS scholarship or walk on to get your foot in the door.
There's another route to an FBS scholarship, however- Prep School. Prep school isn't available to everybody. Your parents have to front cash to get you in the door.
If your family can swing it, the upside to Prep school is that none of your college eligibility is taken. You enroll for a semester or a year in Prep School, you hope to impress college coaches as well, and if you end up at an FBS school, you get your full eligibility time to get on the field and contribute.
Up until 2013, Virginia was home to almost 85% of the enrolled Prep School athletes that would play at a Power 5 school. The two largest Prep schools in the nation were housed here; Fork Union Military Academy and Hargrave Military Academy. (In a distant third, the Milford Academy in New Berlin, NY produced most of the other 15%).
It's important to point out how this relates to Virginia Tech. First off, we're not the only program benefitting from Prep School signees. In this graph, you can see how the Group of 5 schools utilize Prep schools to boost their numbers:
Amongst both the FBS and the Power 5 programs, Virginia Tech is the leader in Prep School signees:
So it's clear that Prep School players worked into Frank Beamer's roster management philosophy. It's important to point out that the last JUCO player Frank Beamer signed was James Griffin out of Pasadena city college.
In 2003. So why would a coach stay so far away for so many years from Players with limited eligibilty?
I imagine Frank Beamer was a proud fella. He probably felt it was beneath him to beg for things.
So in 1995, when we made it to the Sugar Bowl and beat Texas, he refused to beg.
In 1999, when we ran to an undefeated regular season all the way to the National Championship game, he refused to beg.
In 2007, when we completed a run of 8 consecutive 10 win seasons, he refused to beg.
Frank Beamer was well aware that playing in Virginia, he had a resource that didn't require the nicest facilities and the coziest creature comforts attracting the top talent in the nation required.
He could bank on his experience and go toe to toe with all the talent in the nation, and he could win as often as not.
Throughout the Frank Beamer years, we targeted Prep School players for the extra eligibility. We utilized the gray shirt and red shirt like no other program in the country. And while our performance against the top ten teams were lacking, we managed to pull together a successful, winning program.
On the cheap.
So in 2013, a funny thing happened.
Hargrave Military Academy decided to forgo their post-graduate football program.
No sweat, right? We got this.
Except no, we don't. This was a big deal.
The top Prep Program in the nation folding might actually be a big deal...
I can't tell; this graphic is kind of all over the place-
Oh. Yeah. That's a big deal.
The greatest influx of talent Virginia Tech ever got was joining into the ranks of the mighty Pitt, Miami, Syracuse and West Virginia programs when we joined our first ever major conference in the Big East.
This is a helpful reminder that the Virginia Tech football program hasn't kept up on Premium facilities that attract the top talent in the nation (checks notes)