Justin Fuente Addresses Baylor and the Transfer Portal

On Wednesday, Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente met with the media, for the first time since he was linked with the open head coaching job at Baylor University.

Three weeks ago, Fuente and Baylor engaged in discussions about the Bears’ head coaching opening. Later, Fuente decided to return to Virginia Tech by announcing it with a simple tweet showcasing the entire Hokies coaching staff together on January 16:

Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock spoke with select reporters later that day to shed some light on the process, but Wednesday’s National Signing Day marked the first time Fuente addressed the media since those talks with Baylor.

“In my eight going on nine years, I’ve talked to exactly two schools – Virginia Tech and Baylor – and do I love that it became incredibly public? No, but do I understand that part of it? I do,” Fuente said. “You know, I get it. I had a meeting with our team and just told them that. I think we have a great plan here moving forward. We had a conversation, and the next day I showed up to work and went to work. I haven’t looked back since, so I’m really excited about what we have and what we’ve built.

“You look around and see what we’re building, not just bricks and mortar, but as a program and staff-wise, I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a little bit of rejuvenation. It feels a little bit like your first year. And the plan that we’ve got staffing-wise moving forward, I’m excited about. That’s kind of how I addressed it with the guys.”

Some in the fanbase might still be rubbed the wrong way by Fuente’s escapade, but he genuinely seemed eager for the future with the Hokies. The question still remains, did Fuente ever receive an offer from Baylor?

“You’ll never hear me talk about that,” Fuente said. “I’m just not going down that road.”

Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente (Jon Fleming)

The Justin Fuente-Transfer Portal Controversy

The entire 24-minute press conference from Fuente mostly went without incident. He was upbeat and wasn’t snippy at any reporter.

However, one of his comments on the transfer portal sparked controversy after the fact. Here’s the full quote in its entirety after one reporter asked if any of the players who entered the portal had returned yet.

“No, we’re not doing that,” Fuente said. “We talked about that. We talked about it as a team. We talked about Hendon [Hooker] and Deshawn [McClease] last year, and how that was me not doing a job educating them. We’ll take all of them on a case by case basis, but we’re moving forward.”

Immediately following the press conference, Fuente received backlash for the comment. National outlets ran headlines marked with criticism, including an ESPN article which read, “Justin Fuente: Hokies in transfer portal will not be allowed to return” and featured a segment on “Get Up” where a panel derided the comments.

What exactly Fuente meant by those comments is up for debate as the “case by case basis” wasn’t emphasized in the early reports, but a previous quote could clear up some understanding as well.

With the lack of depth at wide receiver, Fuente was questioned if he’d look for graduate transfer to fill the holes that were left by Damon Hazelton, Phil Patterson, and Jacoby Pinckney, who all decided to transfer. Here was his response:

“We don’t have a lot of room to play with in terms of the 85, but we’ll see moving forward,” Fuente said. “I like the guys. We’ve got some young guys that I think have got some talent, that continue to work hard that I think have a chance. Just gotta keep coaching them up.”

It sounds like there is not much wiggle room in terms of the 85 scholarship players that the Hokies hold on their roster. Tech Sideline’s Chris Coleman counted 81 players on scholarship after the transfer portal announcements in a TSL Pass article, so that could hint as to why Justin Fuente would be cautious to accept players back. Either way, we’ll leave you to interpret this controversy as you choose.

Dallan Wright
Dallan Wright was the sole high school recruit to sign with the Hokies on the February national signing day.

National Signing Day

The February National Signing Day doesn’t hold the same glitz and glamor that it once held with most of the players choosing to sign in the early signing period. However, Virginia Tech did still add two players on National Signing Day to move its total to 17 players (including 15 high school and JUCO players and two transfers) in the class.

Running back Raheem Blackshear comes as a transfer from Rutgers University, where he compiled 912 rushing yards and 810 receiving yards over an abbreviated three seasons. Blackshear, who has been working out with the team since the start of the semester, will not be immediately eligible and will apply for a waiver with two years of eligibility remaining.

Listed as a running back, the 5-foot-9, 192-pound speedster could make his presence known in the slot or in a scatback type role to get him in open space.

“He’s a highly intelligent, versatile player, could’ve really gone anywhere he wanted and chose to come here and be a part of what we’ve got going on,” Fuente said. “He will meet in the running back room. He is a running back that is versatile enough to help us outside, and that’s where we’ll start with it. That’s what we’ve talked to him about and the rest we’ll kind of play by ear.”

The other player the Hokies added on Wednesday was wide receiver Dallan Wright. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound wideout caught 87 passes for 1,508 yards and 25 touchdowns in his senior season, while also excelling in basketball and track & field over his high school career.

With Wright not bursting onto the scene in the football capacity until his senior season, it caused him to be overlooked in the recruiting process.

“One of the drawbacks of recruiting the way it is now, is I think it devalues kids’ senior [season] and this is a kid that’s a three-sport athlete – triple jumper, basketball player, football player,” Fuente said. “Probably as a young person wondered about his identity. Was he going to be a basketball player? Probably as a younger player leaned more towards basketball. And then football wise, I’m sure he had some other good players with him, but he threw his team on his back on their way to the state championship. Incredibly productive and competitive young man that came onto our radar throughout his senior year, from a small town and we really fell in love with him.”

In the past, Virginia Tech has had success with recruiting multisport high school athletes. In the era of one-sport specialization, it’s actually something that Fuente and Co. value in players when on the recruiting trail.

“I love the multisport athletes,” Fuente said. “It’s certainly not a deal breaker if a kid doesn’t play another sport, but I think it’s great whatever it is.

“I want them to go do those things because they’re not doing them when they get here. With a few exceptions with our track guys, those days are over when they get here. I want them to enjoy that experience. I love guys that enjoy competing. I think you can learn a lot.”

33 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Treat people the way you want to be treated. JF talks to Baylor but decides to stay ok. Players enter transfer portal but not allowed to come back? I don’t want players to transfer but be fair. Don’t be that pot calling the kettle black.

  2. Either we win next season or we don’t. I’m not sold on Fuente. He has a lot of players returning and a staff that he’s put together. No more excuses. I still think Shane Beamer is the guy for the Hokies’ job. I hope Fuente proves me wrong. All this nitpicking about the press conference doesn’t mean doodle dee to me. Win or go somewhere else. Period. End of story.

  3. I have no issue with JF comments on players entering the transfer portal. How is a coach supposed to plan for the upcoming season if he doesn’t know what players are returning? If a player wants to test playing somewhere else they should be free to do so but your commitment to VT should be questioned and the team should or have to hold a spot for the while they figure out what is best for THEM and the team is less important.

    1. The base about Fuente’s comments on the Transfer Portal was that Hooker and McClease had discussions with the coaches before signing on. Each side knew the score. That’s apparently not the case with the players who left last year and have entered the Portal this year.

      There are plenty of coaches out there who are adamant about players who enter the Portal… don’t let the door hit your behind on the way out. It would be interesting to see the stats on which players actually switch schools after entering the Portal and which ones return since the Portal became available. .

      This is like free agency for the players… finally. In any case, Fuente is absolutely correct that each player’s situation is unique. The media gets in a feeding frenzy because they don’t get the inside scoops like they used to… at VT and everywhere. Social media is taking lots of their business. And folks,,,

      … college football is all about business.

  4. Hey team don’t you dare hit the portal or you’re outta here. Kapeesh? Oh btw just gonna chat with Baylor and if I don’t like it I’ll be back.

    1. Exactly…….the hypocrisy of it all.

      “Ooops you passionate smart Hokie Fans weren’t supposed to find out…..darn…..I wasn’t really serious checking her out.”

  5. I am 100% behind Coach Fuente. Sure I was a little aggravated that he was looking at Baylor….but the bottom line is HE CHOOSE VIRGINIA TECH….that means a lot, at least to me.
    As far as undeveloped athletes (I mean aren’t they all that way?), that’s why we have coaches….as I have said many times Good Coaches develop Nobodies into Somebodies….ref. John Engleberger.

  6. Certainly these players who chose to enter the portal don’t automatically get to return to their team at their own discretion, right? Isn’t that what Fuente is saying: “we may take you back or we might not – decide wisely”? I don’t see what all the hubbub is about. I do agree that saying nothing would have been better if only to limit the negative recruiting fodder. But, I get where he’s coming from.

    1. Agree, I think his point was they can’t choose to come back, Virginia Tech has to choose to take them back on a case-by-case basis. It’s not an automatic opportunity to return. As for people comparing his flirtation with Baylor to players entering the portal, yes, he chose to come back, but Virginia Tech can choose to fire him at any time.

  7. I just don’t see why people consider CJF a ‘horrible’ communicator. Was CFB good at it? How many coaches are? I think Fuente is honest and to the point. There is a minimal amount of coach speak and “I’m a good old boy” bull that many trade in. None of us know how he relates to the players (I don’t think anyone on here is in the locker room). Very few of us know how he gets along with the high rollers. For my money I much prefer his TTL hour than what Frank provided.

  8. While I think Fu is a horrible communicator and terrible to watch in a press conference (look up, look at who you’re talking to and relax) I agree on the transfer portal issue. Once you go to the portal I think it should be an NCAA rule you give up your scholarship at said University. Every school spends a lot of time and money recruiting these kids, gives them a free education, food and a lot of clothing. I don’t think it’s right if they can just up and leave.

    1. 100% agree on forfeiting scholie as soon as your name is officially in/posted.
      reinstatement petitions considered on a “case by case” basis considering scholie availability
      plus teammates approval.

      you indicated you want to leave:
      “don’t let the exit door hit ya’ where the good Lord split ya’.”

      1. Yep….Lets hit the eject button on these crap kids whom likely were sold a bunch of goods, loyalty, and commitment to their development and best interests……

        But ole Coach can flirt with whatever school he likes under the auspices of showing loyalty & respect to his home state. Now all of a sudden he’s reinvigorate himself and focus after having a taste. No offense to you or Josey (you are both great posters) but I think this is a bunch of crap by Fuente. Its Poor taste and Poor timing…..hes a real piece of work.

        1. I think fu should have a chance to look at another school who came to him to discuss the job at baylor. You have to not last year, during the first 5 games, Many fans were extremely upset with FU and the team and were down right rude. we are fortunate to have him.

        2. guess you missed this in my reply:
          “reinstatement petitions considered on a “case by case” basis considering scholie availability
          plus teammates approval.”

          if the VT student-athletes were sold a “bunch of goods, loyalty and commitment …” then you are accusing our coaches of lying, false advertising.
          A. do you really mean that? you sure implied that at the least. if your accurate, then our integrity has slipped below the line; and Lord knows what uncheats, bama, scum and the other unpunished, verified non-ncaa-compliant programs are promising.
          B. when were you with any of our coaches in a recruit’s living room; copying their emails, phone calls, texts, and tweets to have such devastating evidence? we don’t need the exact “communications copy,” but the recruit’s name and date of the chicanery would substantiate your insinuative accusation.

          i’ll leave you with those two and await your affirmation/explanation (A) and the facts for (B).

          TSL article responses ain’t the 5 networks, thank God.

        3. Agreed! Master Douchery! Zero people skills. I’m trying to like this guy but he keeps digging a hole. I just want to win and be a respectful program. Don’t run your dick-tarot ship until you win consistently.

          1. living up to your moniker, how much have you put in to his buyout account? since you’re so adamant about him departing.

            and after that who do you want to take his place?
            what should the VT budget line be to pay your successor?

  9. I am with Old Line Hokie. It’s time to move on with our new coaches and players in our support and donations. This is Coach’s first chance at doing it his way. Let’s go with it.

  10. It seems to me that Whit and Fuente need to do better at staying out in front of “controversies”….I mean is there a staff person or somebody who monitors the pulse of social media who can jump on things and squash these “issues”……….communication needs to be better with the fan base.

    1. Not sure I see the controversy. Come back on a case by case basis. I don’t see the point in letting players go into the portal to see if they can get a better offer and come back if they don’t. Can’t plan a team around that.

        1. “coach” and “student athlete” are not synonyms, and more dissimilar than equal, per Merriam Webster.

          1. Agree completely. A coach looking to change jobs is nothing like a player putting his name out on the market. I’ve never understood why people want to draw comparisons between the two. Completely different roles and situations and heirarchal positions.

          2. I agree, but I guess I miss your point. Are you suggesting a double standard is reasonable? To be clear, I do not begrudge Fuente for exploring Baylor. He could have declined, but he didn’t. Either strategy comes with its costs and benefits. Players, however, cannot explore other options unless they enter the portal, as schools cannot recruit from other schools’ rosters. So if they want to sniff whether the grass is greener, as Fuente did, they have to take this step. I am in no way endorsing anyone breaking a commitment. Just pointing out that controversy comes from doing one thing and asking others to do another.

  11. IMO, I believe that Justin Fuente feels that 2020-2021 is his first year as the coach at Tech. When he arrived, he had to honor Frank Beamer. Frank is bigger than life at Tech, so the fact that he’s still the head coach at Tech is unusual. Look at those head coaches who came in to replace legends like Joe Paterno and Paul ‘Bear” Bryant? They didn’t last too long. Fuente is still there. Plus Whit Babcock asked Fuente to keep Bud and most of his defensive staff. Fuente honored Whit’s request. Would Justin been happier bringing his entire staff with him to Tech and having “his” football program? Most likely so even with being given one of the best DC in college football. Then Fuente had to go the last few seasons with an DC who was aging and considering retirement. It was difficult recruiting defensive players since all the other schools would mention rumors about Bud’s eventual retirement. Now Justin Fuente finally has “his” team. He put aside his ego for Frank Beamer. He went the extra mile by honoring Frank with his players wearing the #25 jersey. He was respectful of Frank and allowed him to remain a big part of the program. He honored Whit’s request by keeping Bud Foster. Fuente has swallowed a lot of his ego since he arrived here. Finally, Fuente can do things his way. This is his first season with “his” program. He seems excited and motivated to get this football program back to relevance.

    1. I don’t agree with the philosophy that ‘this is really his first year’. Excuse me; did CBF browbeat him in to any of his coaching decisions?! Fu was and is the head coach. I like him but it is time for results.

  12. But never said “not welcome back.” The “welcome” is both subjectively interpretive and an emotional trigger. Hey, @holes, ask the follow up question.

  13. As a Hokie grad and fan, I am excited about the new faces coming into the program. I think we are in store for great things in the future! Work hard, stay hungry, and everything will work out.

    1. it’s all for the media heads: gives them a chance to set snares and see if they can trip up a coach to construe into a story.

      first one to get a headline – 5 pts.
      inspire a sequel article – 8 pts.
      get an instate copy – 10 pts.; cross state lines – additional 3 pts.
      national headline and article acclaimed on espn or in si – 40 pts. and probable bonus.
      complaint letters to editor – 1 pt. each.
      stir up an online controversy – 5 pts per controversy.
      stir up a local newspaper controversy (aka: more newspapers verified sold) – 50 pts. and a probable raise.

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