The 60-year-old defensive coordinator said this upcoming season will be his last as an assistant coach.
Foster informed the team of his decision Thursday in what he described as a “very emotional” meeting. Foster thanked coach Justin Fuente and athletic director Whit Babcock for keeping him on when Frank Beamer retired four years ago, then choked back tears when he thanked Beamer for “the opportunity to experience the dream of a lifetime.”
Foster arrived in Blacksburg with Beamer in 1987, was elevated to co-defensive coordinator in 1995 and was named defensive coordinator the following year. He did not take questions after making brief remarks to the media, saying there would be time to reflect when the season is over and that he wants the focus throughout the season to be on the team.
“In this business, you don’t get a chance to go out on your terms,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have that opportunity.”
Foster will continue to work at the school, reporting directly to Babcock as an ambassador for athletics and on other special projects.
Foster’s 33 years on staff at Virginia Tech makes him the longest tenured assistant coach in the country at the same school, and he’s regarded as one of the nation’s top defensive minds. He received the Broyles Award in 2006 as the sports’ top assistant coach after the Hokies led the nation in total defense for the second year in a row. His defenses have been among the top five in scoring defense seven times.
During his tenure as coordinator, 45 of his players have been selected in the NFL draft.
“He is the greatest ever at his craft,” Babcock said, adding that he and Foster had several conversations in recent months about the coach’s future. Babcock said Virginia Tech will honor Foster at times during the season and on the day of the game against Wake Forest on Nov. 9.
Babcock and Fuente said they believe making the announcement was a huge relief for Foster, who is in the final year of his contract.
“We did not do it to manipulate our players’ emotions, first and foremost,” Fuente said of the timing. “What we did was to be honest and open. What our kids now have is a unique opportunity. ... We know the ending. Now we have an opportunity to write the chapter.”
Defensive back Reggie Floyd, one of just five seniors on the roster and the lone defensive starter, said the team won’t let Foster’s announcement be a distraction, but that it motivates the defense to “show our appreciation by how we dominate on the field.”
Defensive lineman Zion Debose said the Hokies have been motivated all offseason to improve after finishing 6-7 last year, their first losing campaign since 1992.
“I feel like we already had a chip on our shoulder with this past season and us not being so successful,” Debose said, “but with Bud and his situation, it kind of adds a little bit more fuel to the fire so it’s only going to motivate us and push us a little more.
“Everything we do, we want to do it for Bud.”
The players said they were surprised and somewhat shocked by the announcement.
“It just went quiet” in the room, the Hokies’ top tackler last season, Rayshard Ashby, said of the team’s reaction to the news. “It went quiet real quick.”
“I’m not an emotional guy,” added safety Divine Deablo, “and he made me tear up.”