Virginia Tech Has Mutually Parted Ways With Justin Fuente

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Justin Fuente Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has mutually parted ways with Justin Fuente, shown here coaching his last game for Virginia Tech against Duke, (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech and Director of Athletics Whit Babcock have mutually parted ways with head football coach Justin Fuente, who went 43-31 (28-20 ACC) in six seasons in Blacksburg.

“We sincerely appreciate the contributions that Coach Fuente made to our football program and the positive impact he made on our student-athletes during his time at Virginia Tech,” Babcock said in a press release. “While it is never easy to make a change, I believe in order for our football program to attain the type of sustained success that is expected at Virginia Tech, the time was right for new leadership of our football program.

“Virginia Tech is one of the most attractive football jobs in America, competing in one of the nation’s premier conferences, the ACC,” Babcock continued. “I’m extremely confident that we’ll be able to identify and hire a new head coach who can build on our rich history and winning tradition.”

The Hokies were 5-5 (3-3 ACC) under his tutelage in 2021. After opening the year with a tremendous win over then-No. 10 North Carolina, however, Virginia Tech struggled. Tech squeezed past Middle Tennessee and Richmond but lost four consecutive games against Power 5 opponents, including three straight at home.

Fuente & Co. had opportunities to win in three of those games, too. Tech couldn’t score on 12 plays inside the ten-yard line in the Black Diamond Trophy game at West Virginia, and led late in games against Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Irish kicked a game-winning field goal, while the Orange threw for a 45-yard score with 19 seconds left to beat the Hokies.

The offense struggled through games one-through-six but came to life in game seven. It was the opposite for the defense, however, who carried the Hokies through the first six games and then allowed 550 yards to Syracuse in the loss. Virginia Tech bounced back with a win at Georgia Tech, then fell at Boston College the following week. In the final home game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 13, the Hokies defeated Duke, 48-17, to send the senior class off the right way.

They weren’t the first slip-ups for Tech under Fuente, which struggled at times over the past four seasons. Over that time, Tech is 8-10 in one-score games and 3-6 in five-point games. 

J.C. Price, who played in Blacksburg from 1992-95, will now lead Virginia Tech through the end of the season as interim head coach.

From The Highs To The Many Lows

Originally hired from Memphis in late 2015 to replace College Football Hall of Famer Frank Beamer, Fuente led the Hokies to a Coastal Division title and a 10-4 (6-2 ACC) record in his first season. After posting a 9-4 (5-3 ACC) record in 2017, however, Fuente only finished above .500 once in his next three years.

Defeat at Old Dominion in 2018 (49-35) made life difficult for Fuente and Virginia Tech, who needed to schedule Marshall in December (and win) to get bowl eligible. Tech did so and won, though the team lost four straight games at home (a 3-4 record in Lane Stadium in 2018), the first of three instances of VT losing three consecutive home games in the Fuente era.

In 2019, a blowout loss to Duke in 2019 (45-10) set the Hokies back, but the group responded. Virginia Tech won six of its next seven games before losing at Virginia in Charlottesville for the first time since 2003. VT finished with an 8-5 record after a Belk Bowl loss to Kentucky, but the Commonwealth Cup loss stung, especially with painful results at ODU and vs. Duke still lingering.

Last year, Virginia Tech’s 29-year bowl streak ended when the team opted to not go to a bowl. The Hokies lost five of six games late in the season, including three home games in a row. Two of those games, against ranked foes in No. 9 Miami and No. 25 Liberty, were decided by a combined four points. However, despite seemingly being down and out, Fuente & Co. closed out the season on a high note with a 33-15 win over Virginia.

Three days after the victory, Babcock called a press conference. In that meeting with reporters, Babcock announced that he had full trust in Fuente and was “energized” about their conversations heading into 2021.

Fuente entered the season on the hot seat and, despite a heartwarming win in the season opener against UNC, the Hokies slipped up too many times midseason in winnable games and situations. All of that led to Virginia Tech parting ways with Fuente on Nov. 16, 2021.

Contract

Justin Fuente’s salary was $4.25 million in 2020, though he took a pay cut due to COVID-19. Under contract through 2024, his buyout is $10 million.

Statement from Justin Fuente

A statement from Fuente was included in the Virginia Tech press release. It said in full:

“On behalf of Jenny and our family, I would like to thank President Sands, Whit and the entire Virginia Tech community for extending me the opportunity to lead this football program for six seasons.

To the many incredible young men that I had the privilege to coach, so many of you have made a lasting impact on our family. I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and your commitment to doing your very best, whether that was on the field, in the classroom or in your personal lives.

To the fabulous assistant coaches and support staff at Virginia Tech, I can’t express how much I appreciated all of your work and all your sacrifices. It takes so many dedicated, hard-working and loyal people behind the scenes to make a football program run smoothly. Thank you.

To all the donors who have recently stepped up to make substantial contributions to Virginia Tech Football, please know the importance of your commitment. So many improvements have been made to point our facilities and overall student-athlete experience in the right direction. Thank you to the fans of Hokie Nation. I would encourage all of you to continue cheering on this football team – your support means so much to all of them.

Finally, to Jenny, Cecilia, Caroline, Charlotte and the rest of our family, thank you for your unwavering love and support. We have all been in this together and we will continue to be in this together on the next step of our journey.

We leave Blacksburg with many great memories, but above all else, our family cherishes the many relationships that have been established and that will always endure. To all of those players, coaches and staff who are still fighting on, know that the Fuente family is always cheering for you.”

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56 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Fuente will land well, it is a good market. There are no quick fixes. The probability of landing someone better than Fuente isn’t better than 60% imho. Not easy to find the right coach at the right price at the right time with the right cultural fit.

  2. Sad is being retired or disabled living off socialists scraps and getting a notice that ur rent is going up 20%.

    My daughter runs a low-mid quality apartment community for the largest family housing REIT in US. They r sucking the life blood out of their poorer residents while reinvesting nothing in these projects. She has a much tougher job than Whit…putting old folks out onto the street or leave.

    This country has hit the financial ice berg and people r mourning for a guy with $10-20 millions banked depending upon how connected his advisor is.

  3. He is a good man. Sorry it didn’t work out. Player development was my concern with him. He’ll land on his feet somewhere. Just hope we can get back on track in a year or two.

  4. A sad but necessary day for Coach Fuente and the Hokie Nation. I met Coach Fuente at Hokie Club meetings and could tell that he was a good man with complete dedication to his job and family. He will get another chance in the future. Best wishes to him and his family for the holidays. Take care…..

  5. I kind of like the timing of this announcement. After some good feels of the Duke game (doesn’t look reactionary like if it would have happened after the curse) but not prolonging the inevitable. Hopefully soon enough to get a jump on the coaching carousel and find THE guy.

    Best of luck to Fu. I have a feeling he will be good at his next stop. Just too bad his learning curve was at our expense.

    1. He won his last game. I think the decision was made prior but Whit gave him the chance to go out on a positive note, knowing that a win over Duke was probable. Accordingly, Whit has also likely had his eye on replacements. As for JF, yes, he’s a good man and that probably figured into Whit’s decision to hire him in the first place. Yes, he appeared to be a man on the rise but in retrospect, Memphis (a basketball school) isn’t a P5 football school and 4 years isn’t a long enough resume, even though 2+2 for Urban Meyer was. But VT doesn’t enjoy the luxury that UF does, in terms of in-state talent and being the school of choice in Florida. Some guys just aren’t cutout to be a HC. For example, I don’t think Bud was. FB had been HC @ Murray State for 7 years and he went out a winner. As someone else has said on this blog, JF was handed the keys to a program which was past its peak but he could not reverse the decline. Even so, there is still a lot of positives it offers: an engaged fan base, an in-state recruiting base in a fertile football talent region, P5 conference affiliation, facilities, a great academic institution, a winning tradition, a classy boss, etc. Hats’ off to JF for his classy departure and best of success ahead.

  6. Wishing you more success at another school, Coach Fuente. You were the guy I thought we needed, “that guy from Memphis”, but after 2 years with Beamer’s players, the program didn’t improve or hold serve to 9-10 wins/year. Thanks for leaving on good terms with the VT community – from your perspective and statement.

    GO HOKIES!

  7. I for one wish things could have worked out better for Fuente and his family in Blacksburg. I truly believe poor coaching decisions were the final straw in his demise. The losses at Lane did not endure him to the fans especially when the team had chances to win most of those games. Its a lonely place at the top of a football team and failure is not a option at VT. So says the fans. I wish the next coach good luck trying to please all the negative Nancys at VT and on TSL.

  8. Coach Fu showed class and went out with a win. Wish him success on his next stop and he won’t be unemployed from an offensive coach position for long.

    1. Some class comments here and a class exit by Fu.
      Said it before and will say it again, I’m most bummed about JHam and the D staff. I think he’ll be a HC in 5 years once he lands somewhere else as DC. Plus, A LOT of Hokies work in the football program. What happens there we shall see.
      Again, let’s thank Fu, his effort, his family, wish him nothing but success and on to the next phase for VT football.

    2. Coach Fu showed class >>>>

      He was saying good bye in his post game comments. He’s a good person – and as he said Saturday night – he’ll be coaching somewhere.

  9. Wish him nothing but the best, and I hope what he’s learned here at VT he can use to reset and find success elsewhere. I also hope we can find a good fit for our program.

  10. I think it was time for a change, but would have waited until after the season to make it. Hate to put that kind of disruption on the players.

    1. Agreed, after o decision was announced after the Pitt game I expected the decision at seasons end and give the program the opportunity to win a 6th game and become bowl eligible.

  11. I wish him well. Met him here, in Atlanta, at an alumni event. Recruiting was his down fall and inconsistent leadership. He went all over the country looking for 3 star athletes. Then, for reason, the few 4 stars we got left early. Lost Virginia, in the process.

  12. I am supremely disappointed in the loud-mouth, know very little “fans” who have come to be the face of Hokie Nation! You have helped make VA TECH a very undesirable place to be.

    1. Appreciate your positivity there, Bud. Got any context for that, or just wake up angry? It was time for a change, only a fool couldn’t see that.

    2. This mindset bothers me. None of us in Corporate America with Fuentes job performance for the last 4years would still be employed like he has. I place people on a P.I.P after 1.5 years. The guy has destroyed every positive Hokie Streak we owned- Bowl Streak, UVA streak ,WVU streak, Instate dominance, Va recruiting. We have a 3 bowl loss streak and we are one avg season (2019) away from 4 losing seasons in row under Fuente. He should have been dismissed when he lost to Virginia in 2019. Then we allowed him to embarass us nationally by flirting with the girl next door at Baylor for 72hrs which was his way to reverse distract us from the painful loss to UVA and then the administration rewards him by beggining him not to leave. We afforded him time and resources in my opinion but running out to the nearest competitor after a UVA and Belk Bowl loss for your dedicated fan base was extremely poor taste. That ended all feelings for me.

      1. yes — he’s the ONLY coach in world history to flirt with another job. Nope, never happened before. And last I checked, Tennessee, Florida State and Nebraska are in the crapper too. It’s called change. It’s called time. It’s called victories and losses in life and in football. You guys have such blinders on by ONLY following and paying attention to VT football it seems. You’re the same bunch that now worships Coach Beamer but called for his head for umpteen years too. Same bunch that calls for Whit to be fired after he has stocked the AD with quality coaches, more revenue and a vision for VT’s football future. Seriously, go get a fresh oxygen tank for your basement, grab some fresh air and get a grip on reality.

      2. it was his job to deliver. We can all decide what we think delivering is but how many have been satisfied with his results? Too bad it cost so much for those results. Other schools struggle to, do they stick with their under performer? Turn the page

      3. Yes, the move had to be made, but the many of the “fire Fuente” rants were snarky and mean spirited. The personal support for Fuente and his family clearly are a response to that.

      4. VTAtlantaHokie. It bothers me too because I can relate to what you’re saying. I wish I have had six years to correct any problems I’ve had with jobs in the past. If I made as many similar mistakes in my job as coach did in his, I would’ve been out the door much faster and without any remorse. And I’ve had to make that long walk myself a few times. Why we think football coaches have a divine right to millions and millions of dollars and it should be immune from appropriate objective criticism is beyond me. The ivory tower protects its own I suppose?

      5. This is not that. It is never happy when people are fired. I have fired a few. I have been fired. It is about wishing a good man well. He has the talent. It is about being graceful. It is about compassion within the constraints of the situation.

    3. There’s a lot more truth to this most fans want to realize or admit. For a fanbase which sees VT as a top tier programs with matching expectations, it sure doesn’t it’s money where its mouth is.

      A coaching change will create some temporary emotional exuberance, but the trajectory of the program won’t change without more money…a lot more money.

    4. In what way did we have to anything to do with his six year reign as the head coach at Virginia Tech that saw the bowl streak and, winning seasons streak end, the UVA streak end, losses to Old Dominion and liberty? An inability to recruit and develop good athletes? And remember we are not Texas or Florida state who pulled the trigger quickly. He was given immense backing from the athletic Director and six years to implement his vision. Don’t lay this on us. We have opened up our wallets and put our bodies in the stadium. His job was to collect millions of dollars and win football games. We wish him well but it’s a merit based job.

    5. I am supremely disappointed in the loud-mouth,>>>>

      134510Hokie – I can understand this part of your comments. I, too, am disappointed it some of the comments coming from a small contingent of the fans and have said so. But – they’re not the face of the Hokie Nation and they haven’t made VT an undesirable place. Accept it – this is life in college football in today’s world. Fu is a good man and he’ll end up on his feet. He still has lots to offer as a coach and a person.

    1. Yes, while I don’t disagree with the decision in any way, it is sad and unfortunate. It’s a shame it had to end this way but it had to be done. Best wishes to the Fuentes without a doubt

    2. I’m pretty sure that his next gig is driving Big Play Trey to Miami in the family’s Honda Odyssey before hopping on a Disney cruise with Jenny and the kids.

    1. This is the right attitude: life deals disappointments, how we react defines our character. My advice to Whit: hire Chadwell, bring McCall with him, keep defensive staff intact, try to keep Vice. Biggest job for new guy is to keep the gems in the recruiting class and add a few more Holloways.

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