Justin Fuente had the difficult job of replacing ultimate Virginia Tech icon, Frank Beamer, who not only enjoyed a Hall of Fame career as the Hokies’ Head Coach; but, who has also become the public face of the University. As so often happens late in a fabled career, Coach Beamer’s last four seasons were not easy; and, his retirement and replacement by Justin Fuente could have been very traumatic and divisive for the Hokie Nation; but, Coach Fuente handled it flawlessly, keeping the popular Beamer visible in the program; and, finishing his first season with a 10-4 record and an improbable comeback win over Arkansas in the Belk Bowl.
After an impressive high school career in Tulsa, a heavily-recruited Justin Fuente ultimately signed, in February 1995, with the University of Oklahoma under legendary Coach Howard Schnellenberger. Looking to the future, Fuente redshirted his first season; but, at season’s end, Schnellenberger resigned as head coach, ushering in an uncharacteristically unstable period for that traditionally strong program; and, Fuente found himself in and out of a shifting quarterback job for the next two seasons. Following the 1997 season, seeking a more stable situation, Fuente transferred to Division I-AA Murray State University where, coincidentally, Frank Beamer had left as Head Coach to go to Virginia Tech several years before. Following the 1999 season, Fuente was named the Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award. He still holds several single-season records at Murray State including: most pass completions (240), highest pass efficiency (151.21), most passing yards (3,497), and most touchdown passes (27).
Following graduation and a brief stint with the Oklahoma Wranglers of the Arena Football League, Fuente left to pursue a career in college coaching. Showing great promise at every stop, by 2009, he was co-offensive coordinator at TCU, where he helped develop Andy Dalton at quarterback and helped lead the Horned Frogs to an undefeated season and victory in the 2011 Rose Bowl. Such exploits did not go unnoticed; and, the University of Memphis named Fuente its head coach on December 8, 2011. Fuente’s 2014 Memphis team captured a share of the American Athletic Conference championship, and defeated BYU in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, giving Fuente his first 10-win season and the Tigers’ first 10-win season since 1938. Fuente was named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award. In the latest chapter of his career, Virginia Tech named Fuente its head coach on November 29, 2015, replacing the retiring Frank Beamer. In his first season in Blacksburg, Fuente led the Hokies to the ACC Championship Game, winning 2016 ACC Coach of the Year honors in the process. Virginia Tech finished the season ranked #16 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls.