The ACC Guru
Justin Fuente Out at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech announced this morning the not-so-shocking news that they have "mutually" agreed to part ways with Justin Fuente with two games remaining in his 6th season as head signal caller for the Hokies. J.C. Price will take over as interim coach for the rest of the season. While this news is not shocking, the timing sure is. The Hokies are coming off of a win, it's already Tuesday of a game week where the Hokies have to travel to Miami, there's only two regular season games remaining, and most importantly, Fuente's buyout was supposed to be reduced by $2.5 million if he was still the head coach on December 15th. Virginia Tech Athletic Director, Whit Babcock, did announce today that the $10 million buyout that Fuente was owed had been negotiated down to $8.75 million.
I actually think the timing makes sense for a few reasons:
If you've made up your mind, you're better off being up front and letting him know. I listened to Whit Babcock's presser this morning and it sounded like that's what happened. He told Fuente that the decision was made, and gave him the opportunity to finish the year if he wanted. Obviously he declined and that's when they negotiated the buyout.
What if Virginia Tech happens to win out with victories at Miami and UVA. The Hokies would probably find themselves in a pretty decent bowl at 7-5 and still a decent following. It would be pretty hard to fire him after.
Whit Babcock and the committee he's put together to find Fuente's replacement, can already get started on their search and potential replacements can also be aware that this job is open. With the LSU and USC jobs also open, Virginia Tech won't be in the top-tier of jobs available, but they're in the next one. This is a program that still has national recognition even though they've been mostly mediocre for the last decade. (one ten win season, when the previous decade saw 9 such seasons)
This might be the biggest reason. Early signing day is now December 15th and the Hokies have a top 20 class for the 2022 recruiting year. Babcock mentioned in his presser that their number 1 priority was notifying all of their recruits of the firing, being honest with them, and trying to retain as much of this class as possible.
There will be plenty of rumors and plenty of dominoes to fall over the next month or so before any real news comes out about who the new Head Coach will be, but I'm going to go ahead and list out some potential replacements listed in order of what I consider would be the best hires.
Luke Fickell- Head Coach, University of Cincinnati
Fickell should be at the top of everyone's list, and that includes Virginia Tech. What he's done at Cincinnati is unbelievable. He's 45-14 in his fifth year with a New Year's Six bowl on his resume and Cincinnati has a chance to become the first Group of Five program to make the CFP this year. I think it's more likely that he takes another job or even stays at Cincinnati, but Virginia Tech has to make the call.
Dave Clawson- Head Coach, Wake Forest University
I know they're in the same conference, but the Virginia Tech job is a way more prestigious job than the Wake Forest one is. Wake Forest was at the bottom of the ACC most years before the arrival of Clawson, and Clawson has now lead them to bowl eligibility for 6 straight years.
Hugh Freeze- Head Coach, Liberty University
The ending was ugly for Freeze at Ole Miss, but his reputation seems to have improved over the last five years and this man knows how to coach offense. His teams always put up points. He led the Rebels to back-to-back New Year's Six bowls and has accrued a 25-9 record at Liberty.
Shane Beamer- Head Coach, University of South Carolina
The main reason that Beamer is this high on the last is because of his last name, but I think he's going to be a successful coach no matter where he is. I thought they should have made the move last year to fire Fuente and hire Beamer, but they didn't and South Carolina decided to give him his first opportunity at a major program. I think this one would come down to 2 questions: What would it cost to get him away from South Carolina, and would Beamer really want to coach in his Father's shadow?
Billy Napier- Head Coach, University of Louisiana
Napier is only 42 years old and has only been a head coach for 4 years (all at Louisiana), but Louisiana has won the Sun Belt West title all four of those years. He's had the Cajuns in the top 25 at multiple points in the last two years. If the first 4 names say no, this is who Virginia Tech should hire.
Jamey Chadwell- Head Coach, Coastal Carolina University
Chadwell has coached and had success at almost every level of college football. He took North Greenville to the Division II Quarterfinals, Charleston Southern to back-to-back FCS Playoff appearances, and won the Sun Belt with Coastal Carolina last year. It's time for a Power Five program to make him their head coach.
Tony Elliott- Offensive Coordinator, Clemson University
Elliott should be one of the most sought after coordinators in college football this year, even with how bad Clemson's offense has been this season. Elliott has been the Tiger's OC since 2015 and they have had one of the best offenses in the country since then. Elliott was the recipient of the Broyles Award in 2017, which is given to the top assistant coach in college football.
Brent Pry- Defensive Coordinator, Penn State University
If the Hokies want to go the defensive coordinator route, Brent Pry should be at the top of the list. He's been on James Franklin's staff since his days at Vanderbilt and been the sole DC for Penn State since 2016. During that span, Penn State has been near the top of the Big Ten in scoring defense and sacks every year. Pry also has ties to Virginia Tech as he was a Grad Assistant under Frank Beamer from 1995-1997.