BLACKSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Justin Fuente isn’t going anywhere, at least not for another year.
Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock said that Fuente “should and will remain” the Hokies’ head football coach during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday afternoon. The two met on Monday for about four hours and discussed several areas of the program, including recruiting, COVID-19 and Fuente’s desire to be in Blacksburg. Babcock, who said he had his mind pretty much made up before that meeting, liked what he heard.
However, he’s also aware that his decision won’t please everybody.
“That’s the easy way out,” Babcock said on Tuesday. “’Hey, the mob is mad. Let’s change coaches, have a honeymoon and nobody really knows much for three years.’ Not here, not this year. I don’t believe that’s right. That’s not how we’re going to do it just because it’s easier and pacifies some of the vocal opinions and the social media mob.”
Fuente just wrapped up his fifth season as Virginia Tech’s head coach in which the Hokies finished 5-6. They had lost four straight games before concluding the regular season this past Saturday with a 33-15 win over Virginia. Some fans have been vocal on social media and message boards that a change was needed, as have a handful of former players. However, the leader of Hokie athletics says he’s opted to follow his gut, putting his full support behind Fuente, a coach in whom Babcock says he believes.
“Will this decision be right? I have no earthly idea. I think it will. I believe it will,” he said. “Time will always tell.”
Babcock also pointed out that the decision had no financial motivations. Fuente has a $10 million buyout in his contract and the athletic director said that if he felt the right decision was to move in a different direction, the program would have found a way to make the payment work.
“I cannot imagine a working relationship that you have somebody around that you don’t believe in that you just keep for money,” said Babcock.
No changes were made to Fuente’s current contract, which runs through 2024.
Babcock did not put demands on Fuente in terms of a specific number of victories that must be reached in order for him to keep his job. He said he believes that is “a bad strategy,” and while wins and losses are the most valuable benchmark, he believes more goes into a decision than those alone.
COVID-19 certainly took its toll on the Virginia Tech football program during the year as well. Babcock estimates that up to 75 percent of players and eight of the Hokies’ 10 full-time coaches contracted the virus at some point since March. Defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton missed the first two games of the season with coronavirus and the program’s depth chart varied from week to week.
Results under Fuente have been up and down during his tenure in Blacksburg. The Hokies are 38-26 during that timespan and have kept Virginia Tech’s bowl streak alive, which currently stands at 27 years in a row. The head coach is conducting player interviews this week and that will help determine if the team chooses to participate in the postseason if selected to a bowl game.
Fuente is scheduled to address the media on Wednesday during National Signing Day.
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.