After today's loss to Liberty, it feels like Fuente's days in Blacksburg are numbered. Rather than just rant and call for replacing Fuente, I think it would be interesting to talk about realistic options.
To date, Justin Fuente is the 25th highest paid Head Coach (of schools who report coaching salaries) per USA Today. In 2019, our total salary pool for assistants was $3.67 million and ranked No. 37 nationally (again, of schools who report coaching salaries). Since then, our total assistant salary pool has fallen to just over $3M. Here's the breakdown by coach:
Per Football Scoop in 2019, Fuente's buy out as of December 16th 2019 is $12.5M. On December 16th 2020, his buyout will decrease to $10M, and continue to decrease by $2.5M each year thereafter. Per Andy Bitter's 10/4/19 mailbag in The Athletic (not linked due to paywall), the buy out would be paid out in quarterly installments through the life of the contract (which ends in December 2024) - that means if he's fired tomorrow, he's owed ~$3M/year. If Whit fires him on December 17th, he'll get paid out $2.5M/year
I say all of this because, as everyone knows, Virginia Tech is limited in who we can hire. Who knows exactly how bad the COVID revenue losses will be. Who knows if some extremely generous donor(s) will step up to support football. For the purposes of discussion, let's assume that some rich donor out there will pay Fuente's buy out, and the athletic department can/will continue to pay ~$7-7.5M/year for a football staff.
So who could Virginia Tech realistically hire? Here's 10 candidates, in no particular order, who (1) might listen to VT, (2) VT could afford, assuming no changes to football coaching salary budget (again, big assumption):
|Coach||Current School/Role||Current Salary||Comments|
|Brett Venables||DC, Clemson||$2,200,000.00||Not sure if he has any interest in being an HC. He's coaching his kid now and only has to coach 4/5-stars. He might have no interest in leaving Clemson.|
|Billy Napier||HC, UL-Lafyatte||$1,005,000.00||Has coached all over the south, including under both Saban and Dabo. In 2.5 years at UL-Lafyatte, he's gone 7-7, 11-3, and is currently 6-1|
|Joe Moorhead||OC, Oregon||$900,000.00||Former headcoach at FCS Fordham, inhereted a 1-10 team, took them 6-5, then to three straight FCS playoff appearences. OC for Penn State, crafting an offense around Trace Mcsorley and Saquon Barkley resulting in a B10 championship and win over OSU. Went 14-11 at Mississippi State before being fired. Current OC at Oregon.|
|Bryan Harsin||HC, Boise||$1,850,000.00||66-18 as a head coach at Boise over 6 seasons. 5 seasons with double digits wins, including two 12-win seasons. His one 'down' year included 9 wins.|
|Ken Niumatalolo||HC, Navy||$2,316,000.00||Yes, I know no one wants the triple option at VT, but it's often reported that Coach Ken would not run the triple option if he went elsewhere.|
|Bill Clark||HC, UAB||$1,500,000.00||Anyone who is unaware of what UAB football has gone through needs to spend sometime researching it. After the school cut the football, Bill Clark came in, and won 6 games in the (new) football team's first season. Since then, he's gone 38-22, including an 11-win season with a conference title and a 9-win season with a division title.|
|Lance Leipold||HC, Buffalo||$624,300.00||Went 109–6 winning six DIII National TItles in 8 years. Has gone 32-32 at Buffalo, which includes consistant improvement from 2-10 to 10-4 in three years.|
|Will Healy||HC, Charlotte||$850,000.00||Started his head coaching career at Austin Peay, taking the team from 0-8 to 7-1 in the FCS in one year. Landed two top 5 FCS recruiting classes there. Since going to Charlotte, he's 9-9 after inhereting a team that went 1-11|
|Todd Grantham||DC, Florida||$1,801,500.00||VT Alum, played 2 years under beamer. Coached here from 1990-95 (DE, DL, ILB).|
|Justin Wilcox||HC, Cal||$3,350,000.00||Defensive coach who has coached all over the country (Wiscy, USC, Tennessee, etc). Has steadily improved Cal's record each year.|
Some notable people I (intentionally) did not include:
- Shane Beamer - Rumors are that he wants to be at a program bigger than VT, and that he upset some high school coaches when coaching here. Probably not a fit.
- Luke Fickell - He's a stereotypical midwestern catholic who spent his whole life in Ohio; went to high school in Columbus, played at OSU, coached at Akron, OSU, and now Cincinnati. The media mostly agrees he's not leaving Cincy for any place other than OSU or Notre Dame. He turned down $6M from MSU last year.
- Matt Campbell only makes $3.5M, but he's spent his whole career in the midwest. I don't see him moving to a completely new part of the country for an extra $750k, but I could be wrong.
- Nick Saban/Urban Meyer/Dabo/Art Briles/etc