For 29 years, the Virginia Tech Hokies did not have many changes within their football program with Frank Beamer transforming Virginia Tech football into a national brand. However, Beamer wasn’t alone as he was helped by having a very good strength and conditioning coach for all 29 of those years, Mike Gentry.
Gentry also decided to retire after this season with Beamer, and the Hokies now have their replacement for Gentry.
The Virginia Tech Hokies announced that they have hired New Mexico’s Ben Hilgart as the associate athletic director of strength and conditioning to replace Gentry. The timing of the hiring should not be surprising after Justin Fuente told media last week that a strength and conditioning had been hired, but was still going through Virginia Tech’s human resource department.
Despite the fancy title, Hilgart is basically the head strength and conditioning coach and will work directly with Justin Fuente. Since graduating from Western Illinois in 2001, Hilgart has worked at four different places starting at UTEP before heading to Ohio State, Arizona State, and then New Mexico.
Hilgart worked at UTEP and Ohio State briefly before having a seven-year stint at Arizona State, which included a role as the Head Sports Performance coach in his final four years in Tempe. Hilgart was at New Mexico for four years including two as the Director of Athletic Performance while he also had a significant role in the renovations of New Mexico’s Athletic Performance Center.
To most fans, this hiring may not be that significant but outside the retention of Bud Foster and hiring of Brad Cornelsen, this may be the most important hire for Justin Fuente.
With NCAA rules limiting the contact coaches can have with their players during the offseason, the strength and conditioning has a large role in keeping players focused on getting stronger and being disciplined. In a way, the strength and conditioning becomes the head of the football program for the players during the offseason when Justin Fuente and his staff can have no or very little interaction with their players.
Ben Hilgart brings a proven reputation with him to Blacksburg, and is a very good hire as Justin Fuente continues to assemble his support staff ahead of spring football.