Two days after the University of Memphis football team defeated the SMU Mustangs 63-0 on Saturday, former Tigers’ coach Justin Fuente was formally introduced as the new Virginia Tech football coach Monday morning in Blacksburg, Virginia.
“I had a really good job,” Fuente said. “And I was really happy there. I loved where I lived. I loved our kids. Our kids worked incredibly hard. They were fully invested in the program. So I didn't feel the need to do anything. I wasn't desperate to move. But when this opportunity came along, I felt like it was a really good fit and was extremely interested in it."
Fuente will replace longtime coach Frank Beamer, who announced his decision to retire earlier this year. Virginia Tech released a summary of his newly signed six-year contract; one that will see him paid $3.2 million per year with an escalation to $3.65 million in the final year of his contract. Fuente was allotted a pool of $3.4 million for his staff, and Virginia Tech gave him $500,000 to pay out his Memphis buyout.
“We are thrilled to welcome Justin, Jenny and their three daughters into our Virginia Tech family,” said Virginia Tech director of athletics Whit Babcock. “We identified coach Fuente as a top candidate early in our process. As our conversations progressed, we then met in person and it became obvious he is the right person to lead our football program. He possesses wisdom beyond his years, as well as a refreshing sense of humility and a calm confidence.”
Fuente arrived at Memphis from TCU after serving on Horn Frogs coach Gary Patterson’s staff from 2007-11. He accumulated a 26-23 record in four seasons with the Tigers, and had a 19-6 record in the last two seasons. The 19 wins are the most in any two-year span in program history.
Two seasons ago, Memphis won a tri-share of the American Athletic Conference Championship, its first conference title since 1971, the Miami Beach Bowl against BYU and finished the season ranked No. 25 in the country in both the AP Poll and Amway Coaches Poll.
The Tigers followed that with a 9-3 regular season finish this season that saw them ranked as high as No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 13 in the College Football Playoff.
In the three seasons before Fuente’s arrival, Memphis went 5-31 before he led one of college football’s great turnarounds in recent history.
Tigers’ redshirt junior quarterback Paxton Lynch thanked Fuente on Twitter once the news of his departure broke.
“Thank you coach Fu for everything you've done for me and this program I love you and good luck at VT!,” tweeted Lynch, who’s grown into arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the country under Fuente’s watch.
Memphis president David Rudd also thanked Fuente for all he brought to the program.
“We are grateful for the job he’s done at the U of M, resurrecting a struggling program to reach the top 25 nationally, and the best two-year stretch in Memphis history,” Rudd released in a statement on Twitter. “I have no doubt Justin Fuente is a name you’ll be hearing for years to come. I wish him the best at Virginia Tech.”
Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen announced at his press conference Sunday the search for a new coach has begun and that no official offer has been made to any candidate.
“We are in the process of putting together a list of candidates with our leadership and will begin moving forward in the search for our next head coach,” Bowen said.
Bowen also announced Sunday assistant coach and co-offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey has been named the Tigers' interim head coach for Memphis’ bowl game in December.
Former Tigers’ football coach Justin Fuente won an AAC Championship and led Memphis to a 19-6 record over the past two seasons.