Memphis Tigers head coach Justin Fuente has seen his stock rise steadily since starting his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach at Illinois State. From Illinois State to TCU to Memphis, the 39-yard old has seems to be on track to head a top level program at some point.
Fuente was with the Redbirds from 2001-2006 before making the move to the FBS ranks. He took the TCU running backs coach position in 2007 and was promoted to the Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach position in 2009, where he stayed until the 2011 season. Then Memphis came along.
The Tigers were coming off of a 3-21 two year stretch under Larry Porter. Many, locally and nationally, were calling the job toxic, unwinnable, and a place for good coaching careers to die. Only a coach with either a career death wish or a vision of what the program could be would take that job. Fuente left the comforts of a good job with TCU to take the reins of Memphis.
After a 7-17 start in his first two seasons, Fuente broke through with the Tigers in 2014 with a 10-3 record, Co-Championship of the AAC, and a win in the Miami Beach Bowl over BYU. He has risen soared to extraordinary heights in 2015 with a 6-0 record and a win over Ole Miss, not to mention the highest AP Poll ranking in school history this fall.
Though making 1.4 million dollars per year with the Tigers, it is only a matter of time before Fuente takes a big time job. What jobs are out there and where will the Memphis head coach end up?
- Southern California: This is an interesting possibility, but it does not seem like the right destination for Fuente. The Trojans fan base expects a high profile coach to take the job. Maybe if Memphis can go 13-0 and win the AAC, but he is not the first, second, third, or fourth option here.
- Maryland: This could be a good fit for Fuente, but with the UnderArmor deal and the Randey Edsall disaster, Maryland seems to think they need a homerun hire. The Terrapins seem to be very interested in a Power Five program coordinator with a big name or an NFL coordinator.
- South Carolina: This could be a match made in football heaven as a hungry coach takes over a program that has the chance to be very good on any given season. The biggest question for Fuente should be whether he wants the job. South Carolina has a glass ceiling of just how good they can be in the SEC. This job has Dan Hawkins to Colorado written all over it for me.
- Illinois: If the Illini were able to pluck Fuente from Memphis and give him full reins, this could be a great hire. I see Illinois going after a Matt Campbell of Toledo or a Dino Babers of Bowling Green after this season is complete.
- North Texas: Fuente would only move up to a Power Five Conference program. So, sorry, but no.
- Virginia: Mike London is on the hot seat. It is still a question of when the Cavaliers let go of him, rather than if. Virginia is not a bad job, but it’s also not a very good job. The AAC is a conference that could but a good fit for Fuente.
- Rutgers: You have to wonder if Kyle Flood will make it out of the 2015 season with his job. Do not take this job if it is open. It is not a good place to be right now.
- Vanderbilt: It seems like Derek Mason is doing just enough to get a third year in 2015. If not, I would expect the Commodores to put the full court press on Fuente. If Fuente takes a job in the SEC, it will be at South Carolina, not Vanderbilt.
- Miami: This is the dark horse pick for me. Miami is in perfect position for a second half collapse and the end of the Al Golden era. Fuente is a perfect fit, in my opinion for this job.
Very Remote Possibilities:
Staying at Memphis: Who says he has to leave for a job after this season? It is a bit of a risky move to not take a higher profile job when your stock is at its highest. It is entirely possible for Fuente to decide that Memphis is where he wants to be in 2016 or even long term. I doubt that happens, but it would be a huge coup for the university.
Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer has to retire at some point. The Hokies have been to a bowl in every season since 1993, but have five or more losses in each of the last three seasons. That will get to four seasons with one more loss. Though very unlikely, if he does decide to retire after the season, I would have Fuente on my speed dial. This would be a great fit for the coach and program.
Did I miss one? Is there somewhere you see Fuente ending up that is not on this list? Let's talk in the comments about possible moves for the Memphis head coach.