Postponement leads to Fuente reaching out to Mendenhall

Tech’s head football coach wanted Mendenhall to hear directly from him as to what forced the postponement of Saturday’s game


BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente reached out to Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall on Saturday after informing his Tech players Saturday morning of the postponement of the Virginia Tech-Virginia game scheduled originally for this Saturday at Lane Stadium.

An outbreak of COVID-19 among the Tech squad left the team with a small, unspecified number of players available to play, and thus forced the postponement of the game. Both schools’ officials and the ACC announced the postponement Saturday morning.

“We started to see a few more cases, along with the Blacksburg community and Virginia Tech,” Fuente said in a video news conference with media members Monday morning. “It wasn’t until the end. I was concerned about it, but it wasn’t until the very end until it became apparent that this wasn’t safe. This had nothing to do with competitive advantage.

“I called Bronco on Saturday and talked to him. I told him there was no way we could walk out there and safely put our kids on the football field. That’s just the facts of it. I hate that that is the situation we’re in. Our kids were incredibly disappointed. I know they and I probably took quite a bit of flack from it, but the bottom line is it was absolutely the right call.”

Fuente and Mendenhall have squared off as coaches many times over the past 12 seasons. Fuente once served as an assistant coach at TCU, and the Horned Frogs played Brigham Young University, where Mendenhall served as the head coach from 2005-15, as members of the Mountain West Conference.

The two also battled when Fuente served as the head coach at Memphis. The Tigers and BYU played against each other in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl – a game marred by a brawl shortly after Memphis’ 55-48 double overtime victory.

The two talked the day after that game and have maintained a good relationship ever since.

“It was good,” Fuente said of his Saturday conversation with Mendenhall. “Bronco and I – I understand where we coach and the rivalry – but we’ve coached against each other for a long time … I just felt like it was the right thing to do. We’ve competed so hard against each other for so many years. There’s certainly empathy there. We all understand what we’re all going through, but I wanted to just make sure he knew what was happening and why it was happening from me and not somebody else.”

In other news from the news conference:

• Fuente announced Monday morning that rover Devon Hunter had been suspended indefinitely for “not upholding the high standards” of the football program. The staff expected the redshirt junior to replace Reggie Floyd at the rover spot after Floyd’s graduation following last season. Hunter played in 13 games last season, starting twice, and he finished with 16 tackles.
Fuente did not get into specifics as to Hunter’s replacement because of an ever-changing roster thanks to COVID-19, but Tyree Rodgers and J.R. Walker figure to get extensive looks.

“To say all those things will be fluid is an understatement in terms of continuing to cross train guys and get guys ready,” Fuente said. “It’s a little early for me to make a call on that right now. Certainly, those are a couple of guys. Keonta [Jenkins] has had a good fall camp, and J.R. is certainly one that continues to get better as well.”

NOTE: Later in the afternoon it was reported by various sources that Hunter was being held in Montgomery County Jail on assault charges.