Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente understands the Hokies’ trajectory needs to improve under his watch and didn’t mince words this week when asked for his personal assessment of his ACC program.
Hokies athletic director Whit Babcock has said multiple times in recent years that he believes in Fuente’s leadership and has shut down hot-seat talk. Since winning 19 games over his first two seasons, Fuente is 19-18 since the start of the 2018 campaign and finished sixth in the conference last fall.
“Well, it’s certainly been interesting,” Fuente said at ACC Media Day when asked about how he would assess his job and the program. “Each job and deal is different and unique. After our first two years, I had a very honest, really good conversation with Whit, our athletic director, talked to him. We won 19 games in two years. I said, Whit, you didn’t bring me here for these past two years, you brought me here for what we’re about to go through. We were not in good shape. We were in the process of building facilities. We had some issues on our roster that were going to take time to get through. We’ve now completed many of those facilities. We’re now adding, expanding our support staff for our players and recruiting. Now starting to get into having an older team.
“I really felt great a year ago about exactly where we were and what we were doing and the status of our football team, a variety of factors have affected that. But I still feel the same way. I’m really excited to see this football team play and kick this season off.”
Fuente left the Memphis Tigers following the 2015 season and assumed the reins in Blacksburg, taking over a program accustomed to winning. He helped build Memphis into a top 30 program and raised the expectation level to double-digit wins annually.
Fuente took over at Virginia Tech prior to the 2016 season and came out of the gates with his hair on fire. The Hokies won 10 games and the Coastal Division that season. The following year, Fuente led Virginia Tech to a nine-win campaign.
247Sports’ Josh Pate named Fuente among five coaches with the most to prove heading into 2021.
“And last but not least, Justin Fuente,” Pate said on his Late Show podcast earlier this summer. “What do you think about a record of 38 and 26? That’s what he’s been there as head coach. I thought he was done last year. I’m very surprised that he’s still the head coach fo Virginia Tech. I really think that beating a Virginia in the last regular-season game, I think that probably went a long way in him maintaining that job.
“But again, even as I talk about Justin Fuente probably if you’re going to do a hot-seat comparison here, him being on the hottest of seats — even as we talk like that, I really think behind the scenes there is a picture that needs to be painted to be fair here and that is Virginia Tech, they have been behind the eight ball here for a while in terms of resources and keeping up with the proverbial Joneses here in the conference. I know they’ve taken steps recently. And so, let’s acknowledge that.”
Austin Nivison contributed to this report.