Fuente, football staff rewarded, strengthening Tech’s commitment to program
BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock announced Tuesday that Tech has strengthened its commitment to the football program on a number of fronts. Head football coach Justin Fuente has agreed to a one-year contract extension that will keep him in Blacksburg through the 2024 season.
As part of a broader commitment to the football program, additional resources will be provided to the salary pool for assistant coaches and support staff, along with enhancements to the academic and recruiting staffs. Under Fuente’s leadership, Tech’s football program has not only enjoyed on-field success, but has also seen student-athletes perform at a high level academically. The ability of Fuente and his staff to recruit talented athletes who fit the culture of Virginia Tech continues to give Hokies confidence in the future of the program under his direction.
Fuente has guided Tech to 19 victories in his first two seasons at Tech, the highest two-year victory total of any Hokies’ football coach in his initial two years in Blacksburg. A consensus selection as the 2016 ACC Coach of the Year, the Tulsa, Oklahoma native is only one of six active FBS head coaches to lead his squads to nine or more victories each of the past four seasons. Tech finished the 2017 campaign at No. 24 in The AP Top 25 and No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
“We are very committed to Coach Fuente and his staff on a long-term basis,” Babcock said. “He has been very loyal and is a tremendous fit at Virginia Tech. We believe in further solidifying the upward trajectory of our football program by investing in him, as well as the wonderful coaches and staff surrounding him. We are pleased to provide additional support staff and resources to our football program.”
In 2016, Fuente guided the Hokies to 10 victories and a berth in the ACC Championship Game in his debut campaign at Virginia Tech. The Hokies concluded that season at No. 16 in both the USA Today Coaches Poll and The AP Top 25, marking Tech’s highest finish in the final polls since 2010.
“Justin and his staff continue to embrace our expectation of high achievement in the community, in the classroom and on the football field,” Babcock continued. “We recognize that in order to achieve and sustain high levels of accomplishment in all those areas, we will need continuity and stability on our coaching staff, as well as investments in our facilities and other resources necessary to enable our student-athletes and our team to realize their full potential.”
Fuente was named the top first-year FBS head coach in the nation in 2016 by the Football Writers Association of America, sharing that honor with USC’s Clay Helton.
“Jenny and our three daughters are very fortunate to call Blacksburg and Virginia Tech our home,” Fuente said. “Ensuring that we were able to retain and reward our very talented and dedicated assistant coaching staff was very important to me. The loyalty and dedication of our assistant coaches and support team is unwavering. I’m very appreciative of the additions and enhancements we are making to our facilities and support staff. I’m very proud to be a Hokie!
“I can’t say enough about the leadership of Whit, Dr. Sands and the Board of Visitors,” Fuente continued. “They understand the ongoing commitment it will take to compete and win at the level at which Virginia Tech aspires. I’m extremely grateful for their support, as well as the passion of Hokie Nation. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded about how passionate our fans are about Virginia Tech Football.”
Under Fuente’s leadership, the Hokies have continued Tech’s tradition of being opportunistic on defense and special teams, a trademark of Virginia Tech established under longtime head coach Frank Beamer and associate head coach/defensive coordinator Bud Foster. In 2017, Tech’s defense led the nation with three shutouts and held opponents to an FBS-low 48.6 completion percentage. The Hokies ranked second in the nation by permitting only 17 Red Zone scores and were second in third-down defense at 26.6 percent, while ranking fourth in scoring defense (14.8 ppg).
Fuente indicated that Galen Scott has been promoted to assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties. Scott will continue to play an integral role with Foster in implementing all aspects of Tech’s defense. In addition, Fuente confirmed that Associate AD for Strength and Conditioning Ben Hilgart has received a compensation adjustment thanks to Tech’s increased salary pool for the football staff.
Tech’s special teams units tied for second in the nation in 2017 with six blocked kicks and led all Power Five clubs by allowed 335 combined punt and kickoff return yards. Meanwhile, CB Greg Stroman ranked second in the nation with 397 punt return yards, including two touchdowns. Offensively, QB Josh Jackson led all FBS freshmen with 2,991 passing yards, while ranking second among freshman signal callers with 20 TDs and a 135.2 rating.
Fuente oversaw an offensive resurgence for the Hokies in 2016, as Tech tied or broke 10 single-season offensive records, including points (490), total TDs (61), first downs (330) and total offense (6,223).
Fuente joined the Hokies after leading a remarkable resurgence during his four seasons as head coach at the University of Memphis. In 2014, after leading the Tigers to their first conference championship since 1971 and the most wins in Memphis history over a two-year period, Fuente was the unanimous selection as American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
The sixth-youngest active Power Five head coach entering the 2017 season, Fuente was regarded as one of the rising stars on the college coaching scene when he arrived at Virginia Tech. He inherited a Memphis program that had compiled a 5-31 record in the three seasons (2009-11) prior to his arrival. He systematically brought the Tigers back to respectability and postseason prominence, leading Memphis to a 19-6 record in his final two campaigns.