Jan. 1, 2000
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Frank wants to be like Bobby. And in college football,
that’s a good thing.
After all, when you’re a head coach with visions of national championships,
who better to emulate than Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, the Seminoles’
70-year-old kid, a folksy, fun-loving sort who seems to have his team in the
title chase every year.
So far, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is doing a pretty fair imitation.
Beamer’s only 53, but he, too, is folksy, fun-loving and successful.
“There’s no question about it, Florida State is exactly where we’re trying
to get to,” Beamer said as the No. 1 Seminoles and second-ranked Hokies
prepared for their national title game in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
“We’ve worked to try and get it on a national level for a long time. We’re
one of eight teams in the country to go to seven bowl games in a row.”
OK, Frank, the numbers prove your point, and they are adding up. They’re
looking more like Bowden’s when he first started cranking out annual 10-win
seasons and top-four finishes back in 1987.
Over the past five seasons, Florida State has 54 wins, Virginia Tech has 47.
This is Bowden’s 22nd bowl game in 24 seasons at Florida State, while Virginia
Tech is playing in its seventh bowl game in Beamer’s 13th season with the team.
The similarities continue: Both coaches came to their schools and built a
winner basically from scratch, both have managed to keep their top assistants
from leaving, both preach attack, attack, attack football, and both schools
benefited greatly by joining conferences and improving facilities.
Both coached their sons: Bobby coached sons Tommy and Terry at West Virginia
and Jeff at Florida State, and Beamer’s son, Shane, plays on the Hokies’
Both coaches also have had their share of problem players.
In 1995-96, 21 Virginia Tech players were arrested on charges ranging from
drunken driving to rape. The school responded with tough discipline and has had
few problems since.
Florida State has had its own troublemakers, including star receiver Peter
Warrick, who was arrested this season on theft charges related to a
There is one major difference between the schools – recruiting. For now, the
Seminoles have a huge edge, but the Hokies feel as if they’re closing the gap.
“The good thing about us the last few years is that we have 11 of the 22
top recruits in the state of Virginia,” Beamer said of top signees such as
quarterback Michael Vick and defensive end Lamar Cobb. “And we’re well on our
way to increasing that number this year.”
Going 11-0 and playing for a national title does that for a school. It’s
exactly what happened to Bowden when he got the Seminoles off the ground. Now,
the 300-game winner picks and chooses from among the nation’s finest prep
“Florida State is recruiting the top of the country, and we’re not quite to
that level yet,” Beamer said. “But if we can get the best players or at least
our fair share of the best players in Virginia, then trust me on this one …
we’ll be around for a long time.”
Bowden doesn’t disagree.
“We’ve stayed up there, we’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “And they
could do the same thing.”
Both coaches said keeping their assistants around was crucial to success.
The assistants say they stay because the coach is a pleasure to work for.
At Florida State, Bowden’s nine assistants average more than 18 years of
college experience. Defensive ends coach Jim Gladden is finishing his 25th
season, running backs coach Billy Sexton his 24th, linebackers coach Chuck
Amato his 18th, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews his 16th, and offensive
coordinator Mark Richt his 14th.
At Virginia Tech, assistant head coach Billy Hite has been around for 22
years, defensive coordinator Bud Foster for 13, and offensive coordinator
Rickey Bustle 12.
“He’s a friend to all of us,” Bustle said of Beamer. “He cares about his
players and his assistants and we care about him. He makes it so much fun to
work and be out there. We’ve had several coaches on our staff who had
opportunities to leave and didn’t.
“I left in 1994, turned around and came back in ’95.”
Andrews says what makes Bowden so popular is his ability to adapt to a
situation and still come out a winner.
“He’s never backed off the things you have to do to win,” Andrews said.
“He knows when to push, he knows when to back off, he knows when it’s time to
make compromises so a player feels like he beat you out of something.”
Bowden also has become a great delegator, allowing his coordinators to run
the show while he oversees the big picture. Beamer, too, has adopted a similar
philosophy, but he also remains in charge of special teams.
“He hires people he has confidence in and let’s them coach,” Andrews said
of Bowden. “He didn’t tell us how to do it. He gave us a job to do and we go
do it. If we’re not getting it done, he comes in there and helps us.”
Through the years, each team has produced landmark victories on the way up
the polls. For Florida State, a 1980 win at Nebraska put the Seminoles in the
national spotlight, for the Hokies, beating Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl was
the biggest step. Until now.
Bowden has seen a lot of changes in the sport, but he’s still amazed when he
thinks about Tuesday night’s matchup.
“Twenty years ago, who would have thought Florida State and Virginia Tech
in the national championship? ‘You kidding me, those two teams? No, it’ll be
Southern Cal and Penn State, you know.”‘ Bowden said. “But the way the parity
is now, the way things are happening, anybody could have that big year.”