After defeating then-ranked No. 10 North Carolina to open the season, it appeared Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente had quelled the hot seat discussion which has surrounded him in recent years. However, since then, the Hokies have yet to manage another win against a Power Five opponent and fell to 3-4 on the season after dropping their third straight loss after a blown lead against Syracuse this weekend. With another disappointing result under his belt, Fuente’s time in Blacksburg may already be up.
“We can pretty much declare the Fuente era over. It’s not official, of course, until the press release comes from Virginia Tech and the buyout money — $10 million if the decision is made before Dec. 16 — is in place. It may take several more weeks, or Virginia Tech may pull the plug soon. We’ll see,” Dan Wolken of USA Today writes.
“But with the Hokies falling at home to Syracuse 41-36, the answer is no longer a mystery. Not only did Virginia Tech lose its third consecutive home game to fall to 3-4, but the Hokies blew a 36-27 lead with 5:36 remaining against a team that had lost 10 straight ACC games.”
The Syracuse loss proved to be particularly disheartening for Fuente, who is now 1-2 in ACC play this season and 8-10 overall since going 8-5 back in 2019. After the Hokies led 36-27 with under six minutes in the fourth quarter, the Orange cut the deficit to 36-34. Virginia Tech played conservatively and punted the ball away with just over a minute remaining, which proved to be enough time for Syracuse to connect on a 45-yard touchdown pass that handed the Hokies their second come-from-behind loss this month.
Having trended on the hot seat entering the 2021 campaign, Fuente was asked about his job security and the program’s timeline to show progress after the Syracuse game and gave a poignant response.
“I’m worried about giving these guys a chance to win, OK? We ain’t going down that road, OK?” Fuente said, via VT Scoop. “So everybody up and down that hallway is selling out to give these kids a chance to win. So I’m not worried about any of that, OK? So, can’t be focused on things we can’t control. What we can control is our attitude and our effort, and our kids have been incredible with all of that. And our job now is to get ’em to do the exact same thing for next week.”
Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock gave Fuente his vote of confidence last December after the Hokies finished 5-6.
“I believe in Justin,” Babcock said. “I’m not unaware of what we need to do, and you know, it’s not always the fashionable thing to keep somebody when everybody’s yelling, but he’s our guy and he’s a Hokie and I believe he gives us the best chance to be successful and I’ll take that responsibility.”
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Thus far, no changes have been made to Fuente’s contract, which runs through the 2024 season.
“We covered recruiting extensively, the depth chart, strength and conditioning, coaches, coaching, community outreach, fan donor engagement, his media appearances, former player involvement, that this is a results-driven business, what the identity to our team is and needs to be, where we need help and support, is he committed, does he want to be here and do right here?” Babcock said after a four-hour meeting with Fuente at the end of the 2020 campaign. “And his answers were honest and sincere and genuine and, again, certainly energized me.”