Dear Fellow Hokies and Hokie Fans,
The 2020 football season is pretty much over. We are awaiting the potential of a bid to a post season bowl game. The number of bowls is rapidly shrinking and the surviving committees have nixed the win/loss requirements for appearances. The ACC has a shrinking pool of available bowls, but also a shrinking pool of teams who are willing to prep for and play in the games. Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Boston College have all taken their names out of the bowl pick hat. That’s interesting news and might very well be the subject of some discussion (at the time of this writing Whit Babcock had not received a final determination from the team).
The team is the point of this letter. Last evening there were some very reliable stories that there is no move being made to replace Justin Fuente as the Head Coach of the Virginia Tech Football Program. The people who offered up the stories, late last evening, are of the sourcing that mean the unofficial channels from within the Athletic Department, itself. So, Justin Fuente stays a Hokie, and Hokie Nation has to deal with that reality.
Bryan has given us his perspective on the issue.
It’s time for me to offer up mine. If you hadn’t noticed from my Open Letter to Fuente, and my Memo to Whit, I was suspecting that this course of action would be the one taken. If the current situation is the choice, that there were certain things that had to be accomplished to improve the situation.
It’s time to talk, folks. Some of you will be spitting mad. There was enough poison gas being blown around to kill off half the bugs and vermin in Virginia, before this “non-decision” was taken. Now, the disappointment and anger from that group of fans will be palpable and long lasting. Most of you have been agitating for Fuente’s dismissal since the 2018 season went into the trash bin. There are some lessons to be learned, here, and one of them might just be that negativity gets immediate attention; but the long-term effects wear off and eventually are ignored. Most folks want to be happy fans and are fine with the status quo ante. Of course, you same folks will be calling for Whit’s head, too, soon so you are unlikely to have much influence as the years progress.
Everybody needs to understand that 2020 is different than collegiate fandom has encountered. The gratuitous dismissal of the COVID wrecked season, and the nearly random ill effects that the pandemic and response to it have had on the team (and many other teams) is now being denied as just more anger and negativity. The COVID virus, response, and regulations had a definite palpable effect on nearly every aspect of the football program. Players were isolated, quarantined, and tested repeatedly. The public reports note that most had gotten the virus and recovered. The isolations were not only from the team to families and friends but within squads on the team. Practices were often piecemeal and the entire practice schedule was set to near zero from February (Normal Spring start) until August. That developmental period was left in the trash bin and the results showed on both sides of the line of scrimmage; especially the defense with its brand-new staff, and underdeveloped players. The cumulative effects on the program cannot reasonably be ignored. It’s not an excuse any more than breathing in a vacuum is just an excuse for asphyxia.
Look, college athletics are changing, and Athletic Departments are being forced to change, too. It is very important to remember that the end of the old personnel functions in college football is ending. The Transfer Portal is changing. Immediate eligibility is going to drive a change in program loyalty. There is also the new problem of the Name, Image, and Likeness rules further warping the way recruiting is done and players are retained. It’s a new world that is going to drive different methods of recruiting, and certainly change the result and retention issue.
Money has been an issue. We were low on the cash flowchart even within the ACC. Running away is not going to help the situation. The current cuts are going to be difficult to deal with. It’s going to be a different ACC over the next few years.
So, there are going to be some serious choices being made. The ACC is a much bigger basketball league than it is a football conference. It’s also a premier baseball and softball conference. The Track Team keeps winning and competing. The AD has more than just football to be concerned about.
My surmise is that Justin Fuente will be here until his contract expires in 2024, unless he decides to leave on his own. I would suspect if he can get his image and community connection problems fixed, he might just be there for longer. Will things get better? Maybe, maybe not. Will we ever get to a national championship? Unless this fan base generates the money enough to get us financially out of Program Twilight, and those scarce funds are going to keep us there. Will we compete for the ACC Championship? In some years, yes, certainly. Until Clemson either collapses or moves on to the Big 10 or SEC, we might pick off one or two; but the ACC is too out of balance to more than scare them a bit now and then. It sounds as if the Athletic Director is looking at making some positive changes but maybe Hokie Nation could make some, too.
Watch this, and then think about it. Justin Fuente isn’t perfect, but Ut Prosim isn’t about perfect it’s about doing your best and working to get better in service to others.
Justin Fuente’s final presser after the UVA Game.
We shall see where this all goes. I will leave you with this. It’s time to ask ourselves a critical question. Is collegiate football about providing scholarship opportunities for student athletes to further their educations or is it all just about wins and losses? I would hope that we all concentrate on the former, and realize that the latter is actually not the point in all of this.