A daunting first task awaited Frank Beamer before he began work as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee: He had to learn how to use a computer.
“I’m in that phase right now,” Beamer, the 70-year-old former Virginia Tech coach said with a laugh Tuesday. “You know in the past, I always had [Virginia Tech associate athletic director] John Ballein and my secretary on either side of me, so if I had a question, they were there to look it up on the Internet or computer or whatever. Now I’m learning to do that myself. I’m fascinated, you know, what you can do as far as travel, when a map comes up and gives you directions.”
Beamer has a bit more time to become computer savvy before the biggest undertaking of his retirement years begins this spring, when the selection committee will meet in Phoenix in the days before college basketball’s Final Four.
There, Beamer, who was major college football‘s winningest active coach when he decided to leave the Hokies in 2015, after 29 years at the helm, will begin a three-year stint on the 13-person selection committee. He headlines an incoming class that also includes Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and Robert Morris President Chris Howard. The three replace Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
For Beamer, a spot on the selection committee meant upending his lifestyle just a bit for the sake of extending his decades-long relationship with college football. The grandfather of five had settled into his retirement in the past year, splitting his time between Blacksburg, Va., and Georgia, where both of his children reside, and staying busy as an ambassador for Virginia Tech’s football program.
Next football season, Beamer will give up his Mondays and Tuesdays each week not long after the season starts to travel and meet with the committee to decide on rankings. It’s a return to the weekly travel schedule the coach left behind when he retired.
Beamer will also re-engage the part of his mind he shut off each weekend of this past college football season. Beamer is accustomed to watching college football for hours on end, as his committee gig will demand each week, but he and wife Cheryl took to watching games as fans last season.
“Sitting here starting about 12 o’clock, going until I fall asleep, then whatever time at night I can go out and get me some knickknacks to munch on and keep watching — that’s not a bad Saturday for me,” Beamer said. “It’s not going to be a big change. I enjoy college football, watching strategy play out.
“But now it’s more than just who won the game: You got to analyze why they did, who was hurt, where was the game played, who’d they play the week before, who they play the week after. All those things go into being able to be successful against a particular team. It’s the circumstances that had that team win or kept the other team from winning. Putting all that together, you’ve got to take all that into consideration.”
Beamer plans on doing as much research as possible before the season starts. He expects to read preseason rankings and pore over rosters — he even plans on buying a few magazines when season previews come out for the first time ever — because improvement is one of the most important metrics he’ll look for.
“Well, I think a conference championship is important, but I’m more interested in is a team improving,” Beamer said. “From where they specifically started, do they continue to improve throughout the year? And generally speaking, if they are improving, they’re going to be involved with the conference championship at the end.”
Beamer says he’ll rely on his own judgment when it comes to creating his rankings. The Associated Press poll or coaches’ poll won’t stand up to the wealth of analytical and statistical information Beamer will have at his fingertips — hence the computer lessons — nor will the opinions of his vast social network of current and former football coaches. He will, of course, step out of the room should Virginia Tech or Georgia, where son Shane is the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, come into conversation.
That’s something Beamer wouldn’t mind, if only for the chance to stretch his legs.
“People know me. I’m not much about sitting around and having long meetings. They told me there’s a lot of meeting time involved with this,” Beamer said with a chuckle.
“But really, I want to be good at being a part of selecting the four teams to be a part of the national championship. I really want to be good at that, so I take it as a challenge to be as knowledgeable and be exact as I possibly can in this whole deal. Getting it down to the four teams that ought to be there at the end, that’s the real challenge. And I’ve always liked challenges. Whatever you do, be good at it and give your full effort and be successful at it. I intend to do that with this project.”
2017 College Football Playoff selection committee members:
Kirby Hocutt, Texas Tech athletic director (committee chair)
Frank Beamer, former head coach at Virginia Tech
Jeff Bower, former head coach at Southern Mississippi
Herb Deromedi, former head coach at Central Michigan
Chris Howard, Robert Morris president
Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executive vice president
Bobby Johnson, former head coach at Vanderbilt
Jeff Long, Arkansas vice chancellor and athletic director
Rob Mullens, Oregon athletic director
Dan Radakovich, Clemson athletic director
Gene Smith, Ohio State athletic director
Steve Wieberg, former college football reporter at USA Today
Tyrone Willingham, former head coach at Washington, Notre Dame and Stanford