Blacksburg, Va. -- Michael Vick's former Virginia Tech coach says he's standing by the embattled quarterback, and the school has no plans - at least not now - to remove a portrait of Vick from the athletic complex or a Vick flag that flies over the stadium.
As two more defendants finalized plea agreements yesterday in a dogfighting case tied to Vick, a school official said it would be premature to consider dismantling a virtual shrine to the Atlanta Falcons quarterback. In 1999, Vick led the Hokies to an 11-0 regular-season record and a berth in the national championship game won by Florida State.
The entrance to a corridor in the $10 million Merryman Athletic Center says "Michael Vick Hall" in raised lettering above a framed portrait of Vick, who faces three felony charges related to the alleged Virginia dogfighting ring. The Associated Press reported that Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Vick's attorneys were negotiating with prosecutors as of late yesterday afternoon, trying to hammer out a plea deal.
Vick's jersey was retired here in 2002 and a banner with his No. 7 flies over 66,000-seat Lane Stadium.
"I have no knowledge of anything [related to Vick's honors] being discussed at this point," said Dave Smith, the sports information director. "I don't think it would be decided until everything is said and done."
Frank Beamer coached Vick in 1999 and 2000 before Vick left Virginia Tech early to enter the NFL draft. Beamer later coached Vick's brother, Marcus.
"Michael, he knows he can count on me if he needs to talk. He knows where I am," Beamer said after Thursday afternoon's practice. "I talked with him after the NFL draft, I've talked to his mom, and my thing is I know how he was when he was here. He was a very caring person who tried to take care of all his friends."
"He was well-liked by his teammates because he was a good person, a good guy. I'm going to let this thing play out before I make any other judgments," the coach said.
According to Smith, Beamer had no further comment yesterday as reports circulated that Vick's attorneys were negotiating a possible plea agreement. Smith said that Beamer believed it would be premature for him to comment while details were being worked out.
Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver was out of the office and unavailable to comment. The NFL has barred Vick from training camp while the case plays out.
Beamer was interviewed as students returned for the fall semester to the campus that was the scene of a rampage by a student gunman April 16 that left 32 dead. The first game is against East Carolina on Sept. 1.
"Gathering in that stadium - sixty-some-thousand people - is a chance for Tech people to be together. I think they just want to rally and say, 'Look, we're not going to let one evidently very sick [gunman] destroy what we're all about here at Virginia Tech.' I think we'll see a togetherness and a caring like never before from Tech people," Beamer said.