When Frank Beamer accepted the head coaching position at his alma mater Virginia Tech in 1987, he stressed one thing — special teams.
Now, 16 years later, the Hokies have a nationally renowned program and that success can be directly attributed to Beamer’s focus on punts, kicks, and defense — things that go by without event in 99 percent of all other programs in college football.
This brand of football, coined “Beamer Ball,” has been the trademark of Tech football and its success is hard to argue with. The Hokies have compiled seven conference titles, appearing in a bowl game in every year since 1993 and currently have five 10-plus win seasons in a row.
“It’s Beamerball,” explained Georgia head coach Mark Richt. “If you polled the coaches around the nation and said who has the best special teams in America, they’d say Virginia Tech. They’d win that poll every time, and for good reason. That formula wins a lot of games, and we’ve tried that at Georgia.”
The focus on special teams is something that Beamer takes pride in. In fact, Beamer is not just the head coach of Tech football, but also the special teams coordinator — a position usually left to another person on the coaching staff.
It is that dedication to the little things that has taken Tech football to the national stage.
At Tech football games, fans focus in on plays that most in other stadiums turn a blind eye to. A punt return (or block) is what fans live for in Lane Stadium. At Hokies games, these plays aren’t just fillers in between possessions, but can be the most exciting moments in a game.
This logic is what’s behind “Hokie Effect” shirts that say:
“Hokies GamePlan — Offense: Score, Defense: Score, Special Teams: Score.”
Not only does the potential big play on special teams breed excitement, but one well-executed special teams play can very often be the reason the Hokies win or lose a game.
“That’s one of the most important parts of the game,” said former Hokies linebacker Xavier Adibi. “If you get off a good punt, one of the gunners can get down there and down the ball inside the five. That could change the field position in the game and give your team momentum. It could be a real turning point.”
Because of this, teams spend much of their week planning for the different stunts the Hokies will use to get to the kicker or punter.
Two seasons ago, Nebraska spent much of the week prior to its game against Tech going over, and instituting new punt-protection schemes. When the two teams face off, however, the Hokies came out on top, blocking a punt for a safety and rendering all of the Huskers’ extra work irrelevant.
“I think when you play a good football team — and Nebraska’s a good football team — you better be good with your special teams,” Beamer said.
As Tech football continues to grow into a national powerhouse, special teams and defense remain the building blocks of the program. The formula works, and coaches all over have taken notice.
“Beamerball” gives Tech an advantage to win and forces fans to watch every play, especially punts and kicks.
Being a Hokies football fan isn’t a casual task. On Saturdays during football season, it might as well be a job.