Home Virginia Tech, Justin Fuente, agree to part ways with two games left in 2021 season

Virginia Tech, Justin Fuente, agree to part ways with two games left in 2021 season


justin fuenteVirginia Tech is parting ways with football coach Justin Fuente, in an oddly-timed move, to say the least, with two games left in the 2021 season, and a month left before his buyout would decrease by $2.5 million.

Tech had just defeated Duke, 48-17, on Saturday, to get back to .500 at 5-5, and winnable games at Miami and at Virginia that give the program a sliver of hope at finishing in a tie atop the Coastal Division.

Athletics Director Whit Babcock announced the move in a press release Tuesday morning that made it that Tech Athletics and Fuente had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

Later, in a press conference, Babcock indicated that the program had negotiated a reduction in Fuente’s buyout from $10 million to $8.75 million.

The buyout would have dropped to $7.5 million next month.

Defensive line coach J.C. Price, a 1996 Virginia Tech alum, will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2021 season, per the release.

“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. “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 said. “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 press release indicated the usual about there being a national search underway to find the next coach, which gets Tech in line with programs like LSU, Southern Cal, TCU, Washington and Washington State, who have already parted ways with their coaches, and several others rumored to be in line to make moves, top of the list there being Florida.

A story on The Athletic speculates on possible top candidates for the Virginia Tech job, listing Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell, Louisiana coach Billy Napier, a former assistant at Clemson, and Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, whose name has come up in relation to several top jobs.

Fuente, when he was hired in November 2015 to replace legendary Tech coach Frank Beamer, was the hot hire of that silly season, coming off a quick rebuild at Memphis, which had won three games total in the two seasons before his arrival, going 10-3 and 9-3 in his last two seasons there.

Virginia Tech had gone just 29-23 in Beamer’s last four seasons in Blacksburg, including back-to-back 7-6 seasons in 2014 and 2015, but Fuente had success out of the gate, leading the Hokies to a 10-4 record in 2016 that included a Coastal Division title, then going 9-4 in 2017.

That would be the high-water mark, as it turned out. Tech would finish 6-7 in 2018, rebound to an 8-5 finish in 2019 that included the program’s first loss to Virginia in 15 years, then stumbled to 5-6 in 2020.

The 2021 season started with promise, with a 17-10 upset of preseason Coastal Division favorite North Carolina, but the Hokies blew a late lead to Notre Dame in what turned out to be a 32-29 loss on Oct. 9, the first L in a 2-4 stretch that included ugly losses to Pitt and Boston College, and another last-minute loss at home, to Syracuse.

Story by Chris Graham



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