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15 Million Reasons Why: Justin Fuente is safe at Virginia Tech

Justin FuenteVirginia Tech is not going to fire football coach Justin Fuente mid-season, so, sorry, message-board fans.

There are roughly 15 million reasons why.

That’s what the athletics department would owe Fuente to fire the embattled fourth-year coach after the regular season, per a report on, and his buyout only drops to $12.5 million on Dec. 15.

This is what happens, incidentally, when you extend a coach’s contract after a good year early into a new job.

Virginia fans, among others, know the damage that can be done here.

In any case, Fuente is around for a while, it seems, no matter what.

Which, historically, may not be the worst thing for Virginia Tech football.

Remember the hue and cry about Frank Beamer after a 2-8-1 record in 1992, his sixth season in Blacksburg?

Beamer was 24-40-2 at Tech at that point. Worked out OK thereafter: 214-81 over the next 22 years, 13 double-digit-win seasons, the rest is history.

Not suggesting here that Fuente needed things to go bad before they could again go good.

He was hired in part because AD Whit Babcock identified offense as a key to a turnaround at Tech, which had gone just 29-23 in Beamer’s last four seasons.

Fuente had a reputation as an assistant at TCU and then a four-year run as head coach at Memphis as something of an offense guru, which makes the utter lack of identity for the Tech offense all that more vexing.

If this were Year 1 or Year 2, it would be understandable, but for Fuente not to have an established starter at QB in Year 4, and nobody apparently in the pipeline after this year, has to make you wonder.

The 2019 offseason also promises more change, as the forced marriage between Fuente and defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Beamer’s long-time right-hand man, comes to an inglorious end.

The ESPN FPI has the Hokies favored in just two of their final eight games, and if that holds, that’s a 4-8 record.

It’s hard to imagine the people who write checks to fund things down in Blacksburg accepting that with any grace.

The question: are they willing to write substantially bigger checks to try to start over, knowing that another fresh start might take another three to four years, at least, to bear fruit?

Column by Chris Graham

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