Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer is close to signing a seven-year contract that could pay him $2 million per season, sources close to the situation said yesterday. Beamer's current contract expires Jan. 1, and Virginia Tech officials and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, are working on a deal that will make him one of college football's highest-paid coaches.

Sexton said yesterday that he "hoped to have something done before the start of the season." The Hokies, the defending ACC champions and ranked No. 8 in the preseason Associated Press poll, will open the season Sept. 4 at North Carolina State.

Sexton, who was hired by Beamer in January to negotiate the contract, declined to reveal the specifics of the compensation package being discussed. Beamer and Virginia Tech Athletics Director Jim Weaver could not be reached for comment last night.

Beamer's current contract, signed in 2000 after he interviewed at North Carolina and talked to Alabama officials about their coaching vacancy, paid him more than $1.2 million in guaranteed compensation last year. He earned another $550,000 in outside endorsement income and bonuses, including more than $368,000 for winning the ACC and playing in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Beamer's guaranteed compensation makes him the fifth-highest-paid coach in the ACC, behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden ($2.5 million), Miami's Larry Coker ($1.9 million), Virginia's Al Groh ($1.7 million) and Maryland's Ralph Friedgen ($1.5 million).

Beamer's negotiating leverage was probably bolstered by the six-year deal Groh received last week. Groh's new financial package includes a $240,000 base salary and $1.46 million annual compensation for services that include fundraising responsibilities, radio and television appearances and product endorsements. Beamer's teams have beaten Virginia three of four times during Groh's tenure.

Beamer is apparently seeking a contract similar to the deals Sexton secured for Auburn's Tommy Tuberville and Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer this year. Tuberville, who led the Tigers to a 13-0 record last season, signed a seven-year contract that will pay him $2 million this season and includes a $200,000 raise each year. Fulmer received a one-year extension that raised his compensation to $2.05 million annually.

Beamer, 58, has guided his alma mater to a 135-77-2 record in 18 seasons. The Hokies, led by all-American quarterback Michael Vick, played in the 1999 national championship game, losing to Florida State, 46-29, in the Sugar Bowl. Last season, its first in the ACC, Virginia Tech was 10-3 and lost to Auburn, 16-13, in the Sugar Bowl.

Sources said Sexton and Virginia Tech officials have agreed on Beamer's salary and contract length, but were still apart on the compensation packages for his nine assistant coaches. Three of Beamer's assistants -- associate head coach-running backs coach Billy Hite, defensive coordinator-inside linebackers coach Bud Foster and offensive coordinator-offensive line coach Bryan Stinespring -- have guaranteed five-year appointments, which are believed to be the longest contracts of any assistants in the country. The other six Tech aides have two-year contracts. Foster was the highest-paid Hokies assistant last year, earning $184,149.

Virginia Tech's Jimmy Williams gives Coach Frank Beamer a lift after the Hokies defeated Miami, 16-10, to win the ACC championship last season.Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, left, talks with Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville prior to last season's Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome.