Virginia Tech parts ways with Justin Fuente: Buyout details, reaction, potential candidates

Justin Fuente is out as the Virginia Tech football head coach after six seasons.

Virginia Tech is the latest program to take a spin on the coaching carousel, announcing Tuesday morning that the university and head football coach Justin Fuente have mutually agreed to part ways.

Fuente was 5-5 this year, his sixth season as the Hokies head coach. J.C. Price will serve as the interim coach for the rest of the year. Price was in his first year as a coach at his alma mater, serving as co-defensive line coach. Price played at Virginia Tech from 1991-1995.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said in a statement a change was necessary to find sustained success and get back to the program’s winning tradition.

“We sincerely appreciate the contributions that Coach Fuente made to our football program and the positive impact he made on our student-athletes during his time at Virginia Tech,” Babcock said. “While it is never easy to make a change, I believe in order for our football program to attain the type of sustained success that is expected at Virginia Tech, the time was right for new leadership of our football program.

“Virginia Tech is one of the most attractive football jobs in America, competing in one of the nation’s premier conferences, the ACC,” Babcock continued. “I’m extremely confident that we’ll be able to identify and hire a new head coach who can build on our rich history and winning tradition.”

Justin Fuente buyout details

Virginia Tech could have waited to fire Fuente later when his buyout would have been decreased on Dec. 15. However, they couldn’t wait in this competitive job market where six FBS programs have coaching vacancies. Fuente will receive a $10 million buyout, according to Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel.

Justin Fuente record at Virginia Tech

Succeeding Frank Beamer brought a lot of responsibility for Fuente and his tenure started off with promising results. Fuente won 10 games in his first season in Blacksburg, won the Coastal, won the Belk Bowl and finished No. 16 in the final AP Poll. He followed up with a nine-win season and another top-25 finish. Things began to trend downward in his third year with a 6-7 record but kept the team’s bowl streak alive. Year 4 saw a bounce-back with an 8-5 finish. However, 2020 saw the Hokies finish 5-6 and in a tie for sixth in the Coastal and the team failed to reach a bowl game for the first time in 27 years when the players voted against playing. Virginia Tech is 5-5 (3-3 in the ACC) and will finish unranked for the fourth straight year. They’ll need a win at Miami this weekend or at Virginia in two weeks to reach bowl eligibility.

Justin Fuente statement after parting with Virginia Tech

Fuente released a statement that can be read in its entirety on the Virginia Tech website. In part, Fuente thanked the players he was fortunate enough o coach and the coaches and support staff he worked with for six seasons.

To the many incredible young men that I had the privilege to coach, so many of you have made a lasting impact on our family. I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and your commitment to doing your very best, whether that was on the field, in the classroom or in your personal lives.

To the fabulous assistant coaches and support staff at Virginia Tech, I can’t express how much I appreciated all of your work and all your sacrifices. It takes so many dedicated, hard-working and loyal people behind the scenes to make a football program run smoothly. Thank you.

Virginia Tech football coach candidates to replace Justin Fuente

Virginia Tech joins LSU, USC, Washington, Washington State and TCU in the coaching market at the Power Five level. Akron, FIU and UMass also have openings. There will be more openings coming soon, but among these, it likely ranks third or fourth as far as best jobs are concerned. LSU and USC are clear leaders in that category. Who could Virginia Tech get to replace Fuente?

Virginia Tech could gauge the interest of Brian Daboll, Byron Leftwich and Barry Odom, according to ESPN’s Marty Smith. With a high demand for new head coaches and a limited supply of ready-made candidates, it’s going to be one of the more interesting coaching carousel seasons in recent memory.

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