Is the Boston College game a potential breaking point for Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech?
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente enters Friday’s nights game vs. Boston College firmly on the hot seat.
That much probably wouldn’t be disputed by even Virginia Tech’s administration, as Fuente enters this game with an overall record of just 42-30 in nearly 6 seasons at the helm. It certainly wouldn’t be disputed by Virginia Tech fans, many of whom were openly lobbying for him to get the TCU job earlier this week.
The Hokies have been trending in the wrong direction for several years now — the Hokies haven’t won 10 games since his first season in charge or 9 games since his second.
This year, it looks like they’ll be doing everything they can just to make a bowl game. ESPN’s FPI is projecting exactly 6.0 wins for the Hokies and gives them a slight edge over Boston College (53.8 percent) on Friday night.
That’s part of what makes this game so important for Fuente’s future — it’s difficult to imagine Virginia Tech making a bowl this season if it can’t beat BC. After facing Duke in Week 11, it closes the year with a red-hot Miami team and Virginia, who could be playing for a division title.
Excluding the 2020 season and Virginia Tech’s COVID-adjusted schedule, the Hokies haven’t missed a bowl game since 1992 when they were still in the Big East.
Another factor that could play a role in Fuente’s job security: For better or worse, Virginia Tech will have college football’s attention on Friday night.
It’s one of the few times this season the Hokies have been in the spotlight — a primetime game vs. an ACC opponent with no other Power 5 college football games on to watch until Utah-Stanford kicks off three hours later.
How Virginia Tech performs on a stage like this could have an outsized impact on Fuente’s immediate future.
There’s also the growing trend of coaches losing their jobs well before the end of the season so programs can get a head start on recruiting the transfer portal and finding a replacement. We’ve already seen it this year with USC (Clay Helton), LSU (Ed Orgeron) and TCU (Gary Patterson), with plenty of other examples out there as well.
If Virginia Tech does decide to part ways with Fuente, how long can it afford to wait? The coaching carousel is happening earlier and earlier every year — Helton has already found his next job at Georgia Southern.
If there is an incentive to hold off on a mid-season firing, it lies in Fuente’s contract. His buyout reportedly drops from $10 million to $7.5 million on Dec. 16, 2021.
On the other hand, the timing seems untenable. The Early Signing Period begins on Dec. 15 and the next semester would be just a few short weeks away, making it impossible to hire a new coach and bring in players from the transfer portal in time for spring. The $2.5 million they would save by waiting until well after the regular season wouldn’t be worth it in the long run.
This might still be recoverable, though. There’s a world where Virginia Tech finishes out the season with 9-4 record, its best since 2017, and Fuente rides that momentum into the offseason.
But the margins are thin, and a win over the Eagles on Friday night would likely be required to make that possibility a reality.
Kick off is at 7:30 p.m. ET.