It Is Time to Relieve Justin Fuente of His Duties
*Disclaimer: The $12.5M buyout is the obvious elephant in the room, but for the sake of this article I will not be touching on that since it has been talked about ad nauseam*
As Ariana Grande once eloquently said: “Thank you, next.”
Burn it all down and start over. It is time for Whit Babcock to fire Justin Fuente.
If you are still one of the dwindling Tech faithful who support the head coach, I would like to ask you what is it going to take for the performance on the field to change your mind? What exactly has Fuente done in his five years that is positive? The only thing that comes to mind is pushing for new football-specific buildings and offices. Other than that, nothing seems to ring a bell here.
What Hokie Nation has seen over the past five years, well really past four years due to 2016 being a great year with Coach Beamer’s players still taking up 99% of the roster, is a complete and utter dumpster fire downward trajectory.
Virginia Tech of old doesn’t exist anymore. It has been slowly transformed by Justin Fuente into something else. Something Tech fans never thought they’d ever see again after Coach Beamer transformed the program into a national brand: Mediocrity.
The Hokies have gone 18-17 under Fuente's watch over the last three seasons. I don't think any other coach in Power 5 football who gets paid as much as Fuente does (second highest paid in the ACC is still mind-boggling) would be allowed to keep his job at this current pace.
Virginia Tech is not good and hasn’t been good for quite some time. However, at least there used to be hope. Now, there is nothing to look forward to at the rate this coaching staff is going.
Opposing teams used to fear Lane Stadium. They would dread it, they would run from it, and yet, destiny would arrive (to paraphrase everyone’s favorite giant purple space villain [Thanos]). And now, bad FBS teams and the occasional FCS team show up without fear because they know it’s not the same. Teams like Liberty and Old Dominion who used to show up for a paycheck before they were FBS now feel they can play with the Hokies. Teams like Furman and Rhode Island who use the games with the Hokies to get a stimulus check now feel that they can win.
This is not the same Virginia Tech program that competed for a National Championship 20 years ago. This is not the same Virginia Tech program that used to win 10+ games a year and be consistently in contention for the ACC Championship and prominent bowl games. This is not the same Virginia Tech program that used to have rosters lined with talent from the 757, Richmond, and Northern VA.
This is not the same Virginia Tech program because of Justin Fuente.
Now I know what some of you are probably thinking; Fuente can’t be blamed for everything bad that has happened to the Tech football program during his tenure. That is of course correct. However, it all starts at the top.
If a high school’s graduation rate is dropping year after year, who is ultimately responsible? The principal.
If a restaurant is seeing diners go elsewhere year after year, who is ultimately responsible? The owner.
If a law firm is consistently losing clients year after year, who is ultimately responsible? The partners.
College football is no different.
In a previous collaboration article, that you can find here, we talked about all the aspects of the downfall of the Tech football program under Fuente. From decision-making, to recruiting, to transparency, to gameplay situational awareness, and more. Throw all those things out the window and what matters most to a college football program and its fanbase? Winning. And winning is not something Justin Fuente is very good at unfortunately.
In Fuente’s five years at Virginia Tech, his teams have participated in some of the worst games in Tech history on a shockingly consistent basis:
- A 28-22 loss to Georgia Tech’s triple-option when the Hokies were ranked #17 (2017)
- A 49-35 loss to Old Dominion when the Hokies were ranked #13 (2018)
- A 49-28 blowout loss to Georgia Tech’s triple-option (2018)
- A 52-22 shellacking loss to Pitt (2018)
- A 24-17 narrow win over Furman, which I’m counting as a loss because, I mean, it’s Furman! (2019)
- A 45-10 Lane Stadium destruction loss to Duke (2019)
- A 39-30 streak-ending loss to UVA (2019)
- A 23-16 loss to soccer school Wake Forest (2020)
- A 38-35 embarrassing loss to Liberty in Lane Stadium (2020)
- A 47-14 annihilation loss to Pitt (2020)
This small sample of games doesn’t include the dozen or so other last possession losses due to the inability of the Tech defense to stop the other team or the losses that on paper look fine, but Tech really should’ve won (2020 Miami game for example).
So where does this leave the state of the Hokie program? In absolute shambles. Changes need to be made and they need to be made yesterday. Putting the money issue aside, this staff is not good. They fail week after week to properly prepare the student-athletes for the games. They fail on a consistent basis to make adjustments to give the Hokies a better chance to win the game. And they fail to provide even a glimpse of optimism about the program to the fanbase. To circle back, all of these issues start with Justin Fuente. He’s the coach. He is the one responsible for preparing the team to compete. And thus far in his tenure he has failed, and failed in dramatic fashion.
Because of this, it is time to relieve Justin Fuente of his duties and go in a new direction.
I’m confident Virginia Tech football will one day be feared again, but today is not that day and it doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.