Experience: 16th season, 1st at Virginia Tech
Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
High School: Union (1995)
College: Murray State (1999)
Playing Exp: Oklahoma (1995-96); Murray State (1997-98)
Family: Wife – Jenny; Daughters – Cecilia, Caroline and Charlotte
|Seasons at VT||First Season|
|Overall Record||9-3 (.750) Games: 12|
|ACC Record||6-2 (.750) Games: 8|
|vs. Non-Conference||3-1 (.750) Games: 4|
|vs. Ranked Teams||1-1 (.500) Games: 2|
|Record Home||5-1 (.833) Games: 6|
|Record Away||4-1 (.800) Games: 5|
|Record Neutral||0-1 (.000) Games: 1|
|2016||Virginia Tech||Head Coach|
|2004-06||Illinois State||Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks|
Bowl Games/Playoffs Coached (8)
|2006||Illinois State||FCS Playoffs|
|* - Joined VT prior to bowl game|
Welcome to Hokie Nation
- Named Virginia Tech’s head coach on Nov. 29, 2015 after orchestrating one of the more dramatic program resurrections in recent college football history at Memphis.
- Considered one of the hottest coaching commodities in a market filled with high-profile openings, Fuente later indicated that Virginia Tech was a program he had long admired from afar, and was the only job he truly coveted, thanks in large part to the rich football tradition, a great environment to raise his family in Blacksburg and campus leaders committed to winning with integrity.
- While following in the footsteps of a bona fide legend like Frank Beamer would be a daunting task for any individual, Fuente immediately embraced the lofty expectations associated with inheriting the nation’s longest active bowl streak and a fanbase hungry for a return to championship contention.
- Perhaps the coup de grâce for Fuente incorporating the best of BeamerBall into his own program came when he and longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster forged an immediate connection and he promoted Foster to associate head coach, while retaining one of college football’s most respected defensive minds.
The Fuentes – Justin and Jenny with daughters Charlotte, Cecilia & Caroline
The Memphis Turnaround
- Compiled a 19-6 record in his final two seasons at Memphis, guiding the Tigers to back-to-back bowl berths after inheriting a program that went 5-31 in three years before his arrival.
- Unanimous selection as 2014 American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year when he led Memphis to its first conference title since 1971.
- Guided Memphis to a 15-game winning streak that included a 37-24 win over No. 13 Ole Miss (10/17/15).
- Memphis posted a 9-3 regular season mark in 2015, capped by a 63-0 win vs. SMU in Fuente’s finale as the Tigers’ head coach.
- The Tigers concluded a 10-3 season in 2014 with a 55-48 double-OT triumph over BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl, the first 10-win season for the Tigers since 1938.
- Fuente’s final game as Memphis head coach was a 63-0 win vs. SMU (11/28/15). QB Paxton Lynch tied an FBS record with seven touchdown passes in the first half of that game. Lynch threw for a school-record 28 TD passes on the 2015 season.
- Memphis outscored its opponents by an average margin of 20.7 points per game during a run of 15 consecutive wins from 2014-15, scoring 652 points (43.5 ppg), while allowing only 341 (22.7 ppg).
- Memphis scored 471 points in 2014, shattering the old school record of 430 points set in 2004, while allowing a mere 19.5 points per game, a figure that ranked 11th among FBS squads.
- The Tigers went +11 (31 takeaways/20 giveaways) in the turnover column in 2014, finishing the campaign ranked in both the AP Top 25 and in the USA Today/Amway Coaches Polls, a first in school history.
- Fuente’s squad led Conference USA in total defense in league games in 2012, giving up just 331.6 ypg.
- The Tigers also excelled on special teams under Fuente as Tom Hornsey won the 2013 Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top collegiate punter.
Building the Blueprint at TCU
- Earned a well-deserved reputation not only as a top recruiter, but also as one of football’s most innovative offensive minds during a record-setting five-year stint on head coach Gary Patterson’s staff at TCU (2007-11).
- It was also at TCU where Fuente began a track record of developing quarterbacks and preparing them for NFL futures.
- During his final three seasons as play caller, QBs coach and co-offensive coordinator at TCU from 2008-10, the Horned Frogs produced a 36-3 overall record and went on a 24-game win streak in the Mountain West Conference.
- From 2008-10, TCU was the only program in the country that finished in the Top 10 in both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll all three of those campaigns. TCU also made back-to-back appearances in BCS bowls with Fuente on the staff, registering a 2011 Rose Bowl victory over No. 5 Wisconsin.
- In 2010, TCU set single-season school marks in touchdowns (73), points scored (541), total offense (6,199 yards) and first downs (327).
- The Horned Frogs also ranked fourth nationally in scoring (41.6 ppg), sixth in passing efficiency (166.9), 10th in rushing (247.4 ypg) and 12th in total offense (476.9 ypg) in 2010.
- His prowess for mentoring quarterbacks garnered national attention as TCU QB Andy Dalton flourished under his tutelage. From 2009-10, Dalton led TCU to a 25-1 record and set the Mountain West career record for total offense (11,925 yards).
- TCU was the only school in the nation to have two different quarterbacks rank in the top 10 in the country in passing efficiency from 2009-11.
- After Dalton completed his career as TCU’s career leader in virtually every passing category, QB Casey Pachall picked up where Dalton left off. In 2011, Pachall led TCU to an 11-2 mark, completing 66.5 percent of his throws (228 of 343) with 25 TDs and seven INTs.
- Fuente’s squad led Conference USA in total defense in league games in 2012, giving up just 331.6 ypg.
FCS Roots at Illinois State
- The composition of the Fuente’s current staff traces some key roots to his initial coaching assignment at Illinois State as four of his nine assistants – Brad Cornelsen, Galen Scott, Vance Vice and Holmon Wiggins – worked with him there. In an ironic twist, the hometown of Bud Foster (Nokomis, Ill.) is actually less than 100 miles from Bloomington, Ill.
- After beginning his tenure at Illinois State coaching quarterbacks in 2001, he added offensive coordinator duties to his assignment for his final three seasons with the Redbirds (2004-06).
- Under his direction in 2005, Illinois State ranked fifth in both total offense (477.6 ypg) and scoring (39.2 ppg) among FCS squads.
Fuente played for Blankenship at Tulsa’s Union High School. Blankenship later served as head coach at Tulsa (2011-14) and worked with Fuente at Memphis (2015). He currently is the head coach at Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville, Ark.
"I’d still run through a brick wall for him. Many years later, he’s still my coach, but he’s also become a great friend, confidant and mentor. I’m eternally grateful for everything he’s taught me over the years, lessons that have extended far beyond the football field. He’s taught me about life, how to treat people, how to deal with success and how to overcome adversity." – Fuente
The late Winder served as Oklahoma offensive coordinator when Fuente was quarterbacking the Sooners in the 1990s. Winder retired as Gary Patterson’s quarterbacks coach at TCU following the 2006 season and encouraged Patterson to interview Fuente for that position.
"Coach Winder was as rough and tough and as hard as they come. I would have jumped in front of a train for him, though. He was the polar opposite of Coach Blankenship personality-wise, but what an amazing coach. While my demeanor may be different, a lot of techniques and idosyncracies of coaching offense and quarterbacks specifically, I took from Coach Winder." – Fuente
Before accepting the challenge of rebuilding the Memphis program, Fuente spent five invaluable seasons working with Patterson at TCU from 2007-11 as the Horned Frogs emerged as a national power.
"I patterned many organizational pieces of our program based on the structure of what Coach Patterson had developed at TCU. Working with Gary really prepared me in a number of facets to become a head coach. Gary’s expertise was on defense, but I really appreciated the balance he stuck between giving us his input on the offense and then giving us the freedom to operate, while being mindful of the overall picture with defense and special teams. It was a great lesson and it’s a style I try to emulate with our staff." – Fuente
Prominent QB Pupils
Paxton Lynch (Memphis) - D1-2016 (26th overall) – Denver
Completed 555 of 856 (64.8%) of his passes for 6,807 yards with 50 TDs and 13 INTs in 2014-15.
Andy Dalton (TCU) - D2-2011 (35th overall) – Cincinnati
Two-time Pro Bowler completed 63.8 percent (408 of 639) of his passes for 5,613 yards with 50 TDs and 14 INTs at TCU (2009-10). In 77 career regular season starts, has thrown for 18,008 yards with 124 TDs and 73 INTs, leading the Bengals to five straight playoff berths.
Casey Pachall (TCU)
Completed 66.5 percent of his throws (228 of 343) with 25 TDs and seven INTs in 2011.
Other Prominent NFL Pupils
S Lonnie Ballentine (Memphis) - D7-2014 – Houston
77 tackles, 3 INTs and 10 passes defensed in final two collegiate seasons
T Marcus Cannon (TCU) - D5-2011 – New England
Patriots (2011-16) SB XLIX Champion, 65 career regular season NFL games
WR Skye Dawson (TCU) - FA-2013 – Washington
Buccaneers (2013), Lions (2014), Spent 2015 season in CFL with Calgary and Edmonton
G Jordan Devey (Memphis) - FA-2013 – Memphis
SB XLIX champion with New England Patriots (2013-14), 49ers (2015) and Chiefs (2016)
WR Jeremy Kerley (TCU) - D5-2011 – N.Y. Jets
Jets (2011-15), Lions (2016), 74 career NFL games – 182 receptions for 225 yards with nine TDs
C Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU) - FA-2011 – Indianapolis
2009 All-America selection by Sports Illustrated
CB Bobby McCain (Memphis) - D5-2015 – Miami
Played in 16 games (4 starts) as a rookie 11 INTs, 10 passes defensed in final two collegiate seasons
T Marshall Newhouse (TCU) - D5-2010 – Green Bay
Packers, Bengals, Giants (2010-16), 76 career NFL games (50 starts)
WR Laurent Robinson (Illinois State) - D3-2007 – Atlanta
192 career catches for 3,007 yards with 29 TDs at Illinois State
RB Matthew Tucker (TCU) - FA-2013 – Philadelphia
Eagles (2013-14) 494 carries for 2,602 yards (5.3 avg.) with 33 TDs at TCU
- Was recruited to the University of Oklahoma by Howard Schnellenberger and played two seasons for the Sooners.
- Saw duty in 20 games at OU and led the Sooners to a 30-27 upset in win overtime against No. 25 Texas in the Red River Shootout (10/12/96) in the inaugural Big 12 contest between the two longtime rivals. Also set an OU freshman record with 11 TD passes that season.
- Transferred to Murray State, the same school that Frank Beamer coached prior accepting the Virginia Tech job in 1987.
- Set 11 schools records during his two-year career at Murray State, completing 458 of 794 passes (57.7%) for 6,372 yards with 50 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, good for a 140.8 rating. Also scored two rushing TDs and had a 15-yard reception.
- Posted a career-high 553 yards at Southern Illinois (9/11/99) and threw for 470 yards and five TDs in his final game against Kentucky Wesleyan (11/20/99), leading the Racers to a 53-0 victory.
- Named the 1999 Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award.
- Played professionally for the Arena Football League’s Oklahoma Wranglers before embarking on his coaching career.
Fun Facts on the Fuentes
- Fuente’s great grandfather, Jack, supported his family during the Great Depression as a professional wrestler under the nicknames "The Spanish Red Devil" and "Spanish Jack".
- The most popular conversation piece in Fuente’s office is a WWE title belt that was presented by Memphis native Jerry "The King" Lawler after Fuente’s Memphis squad won a share of the 2014 American Athletic Conference championship.
- Other notable pieces of wrestling memorabilia in Fuente’s office include a pair of personalized photos from Hall of Fame wrestling announcer Jim Ross, who once served as a high school football referee in Oklahoma.
- Current Virginia Tech offensive line coach Vance Vice held that same role at Murray State when Fuente was the Racers’ quarterback. Vice is also an Oklahoma native and once played in a high school game where Ross was an official.
- Current Tech assistant head coach Galen Scott introduced Fuente to his future wife - the former Jenny Kabbes - while Fuente and Scott were roommates at Illinois State.
- Jenny was an accomplished athlete in her own right as a volleyball student-athlete at Illinois State. The 1998 Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year was a first-team all-conference choice in 1999. After major shoulder surgery, sidelined her in 2000, she returned to the court to earn second-team All-MVC honors in 2001 and first-team accolades as a senior in 2001. She holds a business degree from Illinois State in addition to earning a master’s degree in kinesiology and recreation with an emphasis in sport management.
- An avid golfer and fisherman in his limited free time, Fuente enjoyed the thrill of playing Pebble Beach in June.
- The Fuentes are the proud owners of two dogs – Petey & Bear.