Below, you’ll find the early edition of a story I’ve filed for tomorrow’s print version of The Virginian-Pilot on the Hokies hiring former star Cornell Brown as assistant coach and moving Jim Cavanaugh into an office gig. But first, a quick thinking-out-loud moment:
The moves Virginia Tech made in the last three days – shifting two veteran assistant coaches, with 70 years of experience combined, into “administrative” roles and hiring a couple of young guns who should bring energy to the field and the recruiting trail – say something significant, I think, about the program.
Combine the stadium upgrade six years ago and the absurdly fancy/expensive new locker room this past fall with these two maneuvers ... and I think it looks like the Hokies are ready to act like one of the “big boys” in college football.
Consider that Tech has coughed up some cash to make these two coaching moves. The Hokies are still paying Cavanaugh and Billy Hite (although it’s not clear yet if they’ll still be making their previous salaries in the $200,000 neighborhood) AND they’re now paying two new assistant coaches. This staff tinkering might be costing the Hokies around a third of a million bucks a year.
I don’t know if maybe Shane Beamer schooled his dad on how the SEC does things, but this seems distinctly SEC-like: loading up your staff with hyper-qualified guys in “unofficial” titles that allow their immense knowledge to stay at the program’s disposal without going over the NCAA limit on “official” assistant coaches.
That costs money, but the big boys do it. And Virginia Tech is looking more like a big boy today than it did three days ago. Now here’s the story for tomorrow’s paper, in case you’ve missed any of these details (most have been out there for a while now) ...
Virginia Tech’s football coaching staff has gotten significantly younger in the last three days. The Hokies announced their second shakeup of the week on Wednesday with longtime assistant Jim Cavanaugh moving into an administrative role and former Tech All-American Cornell Brown taking his position as a defensive assistant coach.
Cavanaugh, 62, has been with the Hokies for 15 seasons and owns 37 years as a full-time college assistant coach. His new title is “director of recruiting and high school relations,” a position that will not involve on-field coaching or off-campus recruiting.
Brown, a 35-year-old Lynchburg native, will work with outside linebackers and defensive linemen at Tech. He was one of the first high-profile in-state recruits the Hokies landed under head coach Frank Beamer in 1993. He went on to become a two-time All-American and was named national defensive player of the year by Football News in 1995.
"I've had a lot of great days and great experiences at Virginia Tech, but this is the biggest day and biggest accomplishment to date for me," he said in a school-issued news release.
Brown spent seven seasons with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, starting 14 games in 2002, and collected a Super Bowl ring in 2001. He began coaching as an intern in NFL Europe in 2005 and became a full-time defensive line coach for that league’s Frankfurt Galaxy the next season. He helped the Galaxy reach consecutive World Bowls in the spring of 2006 and 2007. Brown worked as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech in the fall of each of those years.
He has been the defensive line coach of the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League each of the past three seasons. In 2008, the Stampeders led the CFL in rushing and scoring defense and won the Grey Cup.
“I’ve always said that Cornell was the recruit who got us going,” Beamer said in the release. “He chose Virginia Tech at a time when our record wasn’t very successful. I think we are fortunate to bring back a great player that meant so much to Virginia Tech.”
This latest move comes two days after Beamer shifted running backs coach Billy Hite, who is 59, into a similar administrative role and hired his son, 33-year-old Shane Beamer, to coach the running backs.
The moves infuse the Hokies with some youth and energy, but by keeping Hite and Cavanaugh close by, Tech retains the knowledge of a pair that has a combined 70 years as full-time college assistants – 38 in Blacksburg.
Cavanaugh had been the Hokies’ strong safeties and outside linebackers coach since 1996 and Tech’s recruiting coordinator the past nine years.
“Jim Cavanaugh is the most capable, hard-working recruiter that I know," Beamer said in the release. “I think sharing his expertise and knowledge can help us be the very best that we can be.”
Cavanaugh has a reputation as a top recruiter and has deep ties to Hampton Roads. He helped land Hokies stars Michael Vick, Victor Harris, Bryan Randall, Xavier Adibi and Dyrell Roberts among many others. He was rated the No. 2 recruiter in the country by Sporting News and No. 4 by ESPN The Magazine earlier this year.
"Coach Beamer has asked me to come off the field and the road to become director of recruiting and high school relations,” Cavanaugh said in the release. “Having coached for 41 years, I do believe I have experience in these areas. I look forward to overseeing the entire recruiting process at Virginia Tech, and to mentoring our new coaches.”
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