Frank Beamer on taking the UNC job, and giving it back

Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe converse at mid-field before the start of their game at Lane Stadium on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va Saturday Oct. 13, 2012.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe converse at mid-field before the start of their game at Lane Stadium on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va Saturday Oct. 13, 2012. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Frank Beamer has a new book out called Let Me Be Frank: My Life at Virginia Tech. One of the things Beamer writes about is loyalty. He’s in his 27th season as Virginia Tech’s head coach. But in 2000, he nearly left Virginia Tech to accept the head coaching position at North Carolina.

In fact, Beamer accepted the job and then changed his mind. Beamer writes about it in the book, which is available for purchase at the link above. He writes about overtures he received from other college programs, including Alabama and Georgia. He writes about flirting with the Green Bay Packers.

And then he gets into how he close he came to accepting the job at North Carolina. ThePostGame.com did a great job breaking this down earlier today. And with permission from Triumph Books, here’s Beamer on almost becoming the Tar Heels’ head coach:


“In November of 2000, we had just lost that heartbreaking gameat Miami 41–21, largely because we didn't have Michael Vick and André Davis, both hobbled with ankle injuries. We bounced back to beat Central Florida in Orlando and returned home with a 9–1 record and a week off to prepare for the regular-season finale at home against Virginia.

North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour called me, wanting to talk about the Tar Heels job. He was about to fire Carl Torbush. We talked a while and I was very intrigued with what he had to say and with the prospect of taking the Tar Heels job.

Cheryl and I wanted to get away to our house at Lake Oconee, Georgia, and Dick told us to meet him in Charlotte. We talked through a third person in Charlotte, and Cheryl and I drove to the lake house to think about our future, knowing we had an off week ahead of us. I took a few days, I talked to him again, I talked to Cheryl, and on Saturday, November 18, I told Baddour I would accept the job.

It would be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

I didn't tell a soul other than Cheryl and my trusted assistant, John Ballein.

We prepared well and beat Virginia 42–21 the next Saturday to finish 10–1. Cheryl and I then flew to Chapel Hill on Sunday morning, November 26, to work out the details. I had totally convinced myself it was a great opportunity. In fact, I knew it was. I also knew we could win big at North Carolina. They had great facilities and support from the administration.

Once we arrived that Sunday, we toured the Dean Dome and all the football facilities and met everybody in the administration. They took me to meet the president and offered me a glass of hot cider, somewhat as a toast to the future.

I never signed a contract and they wanted me to stay that Sunday night and have the introductory press conference on Monday morning.

"No, we have to get back to Blacksburg tonight," I told them.

I know they were thinking if we got on that airplane to come home, I would change my mind.

And that's exactly what I did.

That Sunday night at my house, I got to thinking about everything. North Carolina had great facilities and great potential to win football championships to go with the many they already had in basketball. I knew we could win there. Some football coaches may have been scared off by what great basketball North Carolina always had, but I always thought that would be a plus. I never worried about basketball. What was most important to my decision-making process was the fact that those football facilities were built on somebody else's blood and sweat. They weren't built from my work.

What we had at Virginia Tech at that time, on the other hand, and what we have built for the future, were built largely because of the success we had since 1993.

Another thing was that our daughter, Casey, was in school at Virginia Tech at the time. How would she feel if we up and left for North Carolina while she was a student here? And how would she be treated if I left to take another job?

But most of all, I realized how much I loved Virginia Tech. I loved the people at Virginia Tech and the relationships we had developed over the years. I loved the town of Blacksburg. I knew that was -- and always would be -- my home. I realized there was no other place I would rather be.

I didn't sleep at all that night, weighing both sides of the decision.

"Whatever you decide, we will do," Cheryl told me. "You always make pretty good decisions."

I woke up Monday morning, or basically got out of bed since there is no waking up when you don't sleep, and I thought to myself, This is my alma mater. This is where I want to be. And this is where we will be as long as I am coaching.

I headed to the office, where everybody waited on my decision. When I walked up to the football facility, I noticed a few people carrying signs, such as "Don't Go Frank" and "Honk If You Want Frank to Stay." It felt good to be wanted.

By now, I had alerted my staff about what was happening. I think my assistants expected me to take the job even though they didn't know how far the discussions had gone. It wasn't very long after I arrived at the office when Dick Baddour called me. I didn't take the call, because I was a flat-out mess, a real basket case. I went upstairs to Jim Weaver's office and met with him, along with the school president, Dr. Charles Steger, and Minnis Ridenour.

As we talked, it became clear that if I stayed, they would offer what I wanted all along -- for my assistants to be taken care of with more money and better contracts. I received a raise, too, but my staff being taken care of was my main concern. I thought they had been vastly underpaid and that was the one issue that led me to listen when people called asking me to interview for other jobs.

I came back downstairs to my office and I called Cheryl at home.

"I can't leave honey," I told her. "We're staying."

I called all of my staff into a meeting.

"We're staying," I told them. "I just feel like I want to stay and get it done here -- not somewhere else."

At this point, Michael Vick hadn't decided whether he would return for his junior season.

"Whether Michael does or doesn't come back, it doesn't matter." I added, "I just can't leave."

I immediately felt support from all of them. One by one, they told me they would have supported me no matter what my decision was. That meant a lot to me.

Then came the hard part: I had to tell North Carolina.

I called Dick and I started my explanation, "Listen, this is nothing to do with you. It's me. I just can't leave here. I love this place and it's my alma mater. I want to tell you that you did everything right. It was perfect, but I just can't do it."

There was silence on the other end. I could tell he was upset and I understood why he would be, but he didn't say too much. He never yelled at me or anything like that. It was very cordial. He was a professional and I appreciate that to this day. Dick ended up hiring John Bunting and I think he has forgiven me over time, but it took a while. He was very cordial to me in recent years during the ACC meetings before he retired.”


Really interesting stuff. And, obviously, lots of what ifs to ponder.

What if Beamer had indeed decided to come to Chapel Hill? Would he have built the Tar Heels into a Virginia Tech-like program – consistent 10-win seasons, with conference championships and routine trips to major bowl games? Would he still be at UNC right now? And what would have become of Virginia Tech football? Think about it. No John Bunting era at UNC. And, probably, no Butch Davis and everything that happened during his tenure.

What might have been.