Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has decided to retire after the 2015 season. Beamer is college football’s longest tenured coach, spending 29 years in Blacksburg. Under Beamer’s direction, the Hokies are 235-120-2 and won at least 10 games in every season from 2004-11. Additionally, Virginia Tech finished No. 2 nationally in 1999.
While this job isn’t as good as ACC counterparts Florida State or Clemson, Virginia Tech is one of the top 25-30 coaching destinations. There’s good talent to recruit from in Virginia, and the fan support is strong. Who might replace Beamer on the Virginia Tech sidelines in 2016? Here are some names to consider:
Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green
Babers is a former Art Briles assistant excelling in his fourth year as a head coach. After two seasons at Eastern Illinois (19-7), Babers was hired at Bowling Green and is 14-8 since 2014. Despite losing starting quarterback Matt Johnson last year, the Falcons still won the MAC East and claimed a Camellia Bowl victory over South Alabama. Babers has a wealth of experience from stops as an assistant at Baylor, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Arizona.
Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo
Campbell is regarded as one of college football’s rising stars in the Group of 5 coaching ranks. In four full years with the Rockets, Campbell is 33-13 and has this program at 7-0 and ranked in the Associated Press poll entering Week 10 games. Prior to taking over as Toledo’s head coach, Campbell worked as an assistant with the Rockets under Tim Beckman and spent from 2007-08 at Bowling Green. The Ohio native played his college ball at Mount Union.
Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech
Foster has been rumored as the eventual successor to Beamer. However, will athletic director Whit Babcock look outside of the current staff for the next coach? Foster is one of the nation’s top defensive play-callers and has coached in Blacksburg since 1987. The Kentucky native has also worked as the Hokies’ defensive play-caller since 1995 and coached under Beamer at Murray State from 1983-86. Foster does not have any head coaching experience.
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Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis
Fuente helped Memphis improve from one of the worst FBS programs to a top 25 team in just a few seasons. Larry Porter went 3-21 in two years with the Tigers and was fired after the 2011 campaign, leaving a mess for Fuente in 2012. However, Memphis improved to 4-8 in Fuente’s first year, finished 3-9 in a tougher league (American Athletic) in 2013, followed by a 10-3 mark in 2014. Additionally, the Tigers finished No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll last season, which was the first end-of-season ranking in program history. Memphis is one of the top Group of 5 programs this season at 8-0 and ranked No. 15 in the latest Associated Press poll. Fuente also spent four years as an assistant under Gary Patterson at TCU from 2007-11.
Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts
Hamilton is a longshot for the Virginia Tech job, but the former Howard quarterback is due for an opportunity to be a head coach. He worked as an assistant in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers and Bears prior to joining Stanford’s staff in 2010. Hamilton coached with the Cardinal from 2010-12, including the last two seasons as the offensive play-caller. Hamilton was hired as the Colts’ coordinator in 2013 and has remained in that role over the last three years.
Tom Herman, head coach, Houston
Herman is in its first year as a head coach on the collegiate level, but the former Ohio State assistant will be a hot commodity this offseason. Herman has guided the Cougars to an 8-0 start and a No. 18 ranking after Week 9 in the Associated Press poll. Prior to taking over at Houston, Herman coached under Urban Meyer at Ohio State from 2012-14 and also had stops as an offensive coordinator at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State. Herman was one of the nation’s top assistants during his tenure with the Buckeyes and helped the program overcome the loss of quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett - and prepare Cardale Jones - to win last year's national championship.
Matt Rhule, head coach, Temple
Temple suffered its first loss of the 2015 season on Saturday night, but the defeat to Notre Dame doesn’t diminish how far this program has developed under Rhule. The Owls are 15-17 under Rhule’s direction and improved from two wins in 2013 to six in 2014. Temple is 7-1 this season and ranked in the Associated Press poll after Week 9. Rhule has spent most of his career on the East Coast, as he’s a former Penn State linebacker and was an assistant at Temple and with the Giants before replacing Al Golden after he left for Miami. Rhule is another coach on the rise from the American Athletic Conference.
Rich Rodriguez, head coach, Arizona
Rodriguez has a good job (Arizona), but the rumor mill keeps the former West Virginia coach in the mix for openings on the East Coast this year. In four seasons with the Wildcats, Rodriguez is 31-18 and guided the program to a Pac-12 South title in 2014. Rodriguez was a bad fit at Michigan and went 15-22 in three seasons with the Wolverines, but he had a successful run at West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers to 60 wins in seven years. Rodriguez has ties to current Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Virginia Tech should be able to attract plenty of candidates with head coaching experience, but Venables is a name to remember from the assistant ranks. The Kansas native has coordinated one of the nation’s top defenses at Clemson and also spent time at Oklahoma from 1999-11. Under Venables’ direction, the Tigers led the nation by limiting opponents to just 4.03 yards per play in 2014. Despite returning only two starters this season, Clemson is holding opposing offenses to 17.6 points per game. Venables does not have any head coaching experience, but he’s ready for an opportunity to run a Power 5 program.
Matt Wells, head coach, Utah State
Wells coaches at his alma mater, so it will take a special job to pull him away from Utah State. In three years with the Aggies, Wells is 24-12 and is the frontrunner to win the Mountain West’s Mountain Division in 2015. Additionally, Utah State played for the conference title in 2013 and are 2-0 in bowl appearances under Wells’ direction. The 24 wins over the last three years are even more impressive when you consider the major injuries Utah State has suffered under Wells. He also has experience as an assistant from stops at Navy, Tulsa, New Mexico and Louisville.
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