Geoff Calkins just came forth with his take on Justin Fuente’s seemingly imminent move to Virginia Tech. Calkins essentially calls on Tiger fans to express gratitude for all that’s been accomplished and wish Fuente well as he (likely) moves on to the next step in his career.
It’s an entirely rational, mature, gracious response. And he’s probably right.
I’ve always praised Calkins for being balanced. He ripped John Calipari for his ethical shortcomings, but praised him as a coach. He ripped RC Johnson’s failures as an athletic director, but has generally promoted the University and openly roots for its athletic success.
And yet, I’m still not entirely with Calkins on this one.
Even though I want to, I’m not feeling as gracious as he seems to think I should. Perhaps I’ll get there as the emotions subside – but there’s a troubling timeline to Fuente’s departure that Calkins didn’t fully address in his column.
The Memphis football team was undefeated until 3 weeks ago, which presumably (I certainly don’t know this for a fact) was around the time Fuente was considering Virginia Tech’s offer to replace Frank Beamer as head coach.
Again, rumors are that Fuente to Virginia Tech is a “done deal.” So if that’s the case it had to be negotiated in the past few weeks – at the latest.
The few weeks in which Memphis lost 3 straight games to Navy, Houston and Temple.
Was Memphis distracted against Navy? They didn’t look distracted, but they didn’t look good, either. Navy is really good though, so no big deal there.
Was Memphis distracted against Houston? They didn’t look distracted, but they certainly collapsed at the end. I guess you could say that kind of stuff happens.
Was Memphis distracted against Temple? I’ll let you answer that for yourself. But I’d say distracted is a kind word for what Memphis was at Temple.
If Memphis lays an egg against SMU, it will mark the 2nd time in 4 years as head coach that Fuente’s team totally collapsed at the end of the season – or to use his term – dropped the rope.
It’s a steep fall from 8-0, dark horse playoff contender to 8-3, going nowhere fast.
And now to learn that the coach was planning his exit during the fall. It stings.
The logical and sane response to all this is to say:
That’s just the way of the world.
That’s just how the coaching industry works.
Coaches negotiate during the season because they have to.
Why should coaches be held to a different standard than normal employees at normal jobs?
Let me be clear – all of that is absolutely, 100% true.
But I don’t have to celebrate it. And I don’t have to glorify it.
If I left my employer before the job was finished, they might thank me for the good work I had done – and might even wish me well. But they might be a little upset that the job wasn’t, ya know, finished.
I appreciate the job that Justin Fuente has done. It may be the best rebuilding job done in college football in several decades.
I thank him for that, and I do wish him luck at Virginia Tech.
But I’m not about to glorify a guy that’s leaving after 1.8 winning seasons – before the job was really finished.
And pardon me if I don’t feel particularly grateful at the moment.