Reports began surfacing on Saturday that Virginia Tech had found their new head coach and on Sunday, they made it official. Memphis' Justin Fuente was confirmed to be the program's next head coach with Bud Foster staying on as defensive coordinator, according to the team's official Twitter account.
Twenty-nine years after hiring Frank Beamer out of Murray State, Virginia Tech now turns to a Murray State grad in Fuente.
Fuente, 39, helped to turn around a struggling Memphis team in his four years with the program, culminating in a 10-3 season in 2014 and a 9-3 season so far in 2015. He will replace Frank Beamer, who announced earlier this season that he would be retiring at the age of 69 after 29 years at the helm for the Hokies.
“This is an exciting day for Virginia Tech,” school president Timothy Sands said. “Having just ended our regular season with another win over UVA under our remarkable coach Frank Beamer, we can all celebrate our season and Coach Beamer’s tenure with a bowl game while we welcome Justin Fuente as our new football coach."
Fuente took over a Memphis team in 2012 that had gone 5-31 in three seasons and made them a 10-win team in just his third year. He was the unanimous pick for AAC Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Tigers to their first conference championship since 1971. Memphis' upset win over Ole Miss this season really established Fuente on a national level and made him an attractive candidate for teams in need of a new head coach.
“We identified Coach Fuente as a top candidate early in our process," athletics director Whit Babcock said. "As our conversations progressed, we then met in person and it became obvious he is the right person to lead our football program. He possesses wisdom beyond his years, as well as a refreshing sense of humility and a calm confidence.
“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear."
Prior to his time in Memphis, Fuente served as the offensive coordinator under Gary Patterson at TCU from 2007-11. In 2010, the Horned Frogs set single-season school records in touchdowns (73), points scored (541) and total offense (6,119 yards).
With Fuente, the offense appears to be in good hands, as does the defense with the news that Foster will be retained.
The long-time defensive coordinator for the Hokies, Foster is considered one of the best in the business. He spent his entire coaching career working for Beamer and after expressing his interest in succeeding him as head coach, it was unclear what Foster would do after losing out the job to Fuente.
Foster's inclusion in the new regime will help ease the transition for a team whose entire cultural was built by Beamer. This is not a school with the long established history of a school like Notre Dame or Alabama. With Foster in tow, Virginia Tech is much less likely to face a debilitating identity crisis in the coming years as they try to transition from the only coach who has had extended success in Blacksburg.
“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”
The release made no mention of any of the school's other assistants.
With so many jobs already open around the FBS, this offseason will be a tumultuous one for coaches. With the news already official, Babcock managed to snag one of the best coaches on the market and keep one of the top coordinators before the coaching carousel could even really heat up. It's an impressive hire for a team hoping to stay nationally relevant.
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