Sunday, November 19, 2017
Colleges

Clemson's Swinney, Virginia Tech's Fuente friendly foes

RECOMMENDED READING


Small world, the coaching stratosphere. A colleague one day is a counterpart the next. Happens every week.

Sometimes, the connections are glaring. Florida's Jim McElwain and Alabama's Nick Saban now occupy different ends of a rivalry, not a headset. The "Bedlam" game has evolved into a literal blood feud as Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's kid brother Cale is Oklahoma's receivers coach. And on it goes.

Which leads to Saturday night's ACC title game, where the coaches — Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Virginia Tech's Justin Fuente — were darn near co-workers.

Backpedal six years ago. TCU, then a Mountain West Conference heavyweight, finishes a 13-0 season with a victory against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. In the process, the stock of the Horned Frogs' quarterback (Andy Dalton) and coordinator (Fuente) soars.

Before you can say upwardly mobile, Fuente and his wife, Jenny, are on a plane to Clemson to interview with Swinney about the Tigers' offensive coordinator vacancy.

"I really had kind of done my homework and research, kind of independently, and then confirmed it with some people that I trusted," said Swinney, whose team had lost 14-10 at home to TCU in 2009.

"I kind of got it down to three guys, and (current SMU coach) Chad Morris and Justin were the top two that I wanted to actually bring in and meet with and kind of go from there. I just had a lot of respect for the job (Fuente) had done."

The interview spanned roughly a day and a half. Offensive philosophies were shared, spouses introduced to each other. Fuente said he came away "very impressed" with Swinney and his personality.

"We talked a little bit about offensive football, but I just enjoyed being around him, enjoyed having conversations about different ways to do things," Fuente, 40, recalled. "I thought we could have a discussion back and forth and both listen to each others' points of view. It was a pleasant experience."

In the end, Swinney picked Morris, who installed a high-octane spread system that helped Clemson win 41 of 52 games over four years. Fuente, harboring nary a grudge for being passed over, spent another year at TCU before being hired as coach at Memphis and overseeing a surreal resuscitation of the Tigers program.

On Saturday at Orlando's Camping World Stadium, Fuente and Swinney — who still exchange the occasional texts and have spent time together at league meetings — hook up again in a made-for-TV subplot to a game with clear College Football Playoff implications.

It's the Hokies and Tigers' first matchup since 2012, when neither Swinney nor Fuente — wrapping up his first year as Virginia Tech coach — likely could have envisioned how their career trajectories again would intersect.

"He's a class guy," Swinney, 47, told the Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier. "It was fun in spring meetings to have a chance to visit with him and be around him a little bit because I hadn't been around him much. … But I'm definitely a fan of him. He's going to do a great job. Already has."

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]tampabay.com.

 
Comments
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSU’s first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

GAINESVILLE — Chauncey Gardner wasn’t fooled. He saw UAB snap the ball. He saw the quarterback throw a screen. He saw the receiver fire a second pass downfield. Then a crowd of 84,649 saw the sophomore safety high-point the trick-play pass to earn hi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

GAINESVILLE — Florida’s next head coach — whether it’s odds-on favorite Chip Kelly or someone else — should be encouraged by Saturday’s 36-7 win over UAB.Not because the Gators (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak by beating up on a 7-4 Blazers te...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida-UAB

Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida-UAB

1. A milestone Florida probably doesn’t want to celebrate: Johnny Townsend became the school’s all-time leading punter with his 232rd career punt. But Townsend has legitimately been one of the team’s MVPs.2. It took far too long, but UF’s tight ends ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

GAINESVILLE — Behind a balanced effort and six double-figure scorers, No. 8 Florida dominated North Florida 108-68 Thursday. Junior KeVaughn Allen led the Gators with 18 points. The balanced scoring helped Florida (2-0) dismantle the Ospreys (0-4) fr...
Published: 11/16/17
College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

The Times’ college football coverage team makes its picks for week 12 games:gametimeMartin Fennelly, @mjfennellyMatt Baker, @MBakerTBTimesTraci Johnson, @TBHomeTeamMike Sherman, @mikeshermanTom Jones, @tomwjonesJoey Knight, @TBTimes_BullsAgainst the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gators’ next head coach?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gators’ next head coach?

The Florida Gators are vetting Chip Kelly to potentially be their next head coach, but is he their first choice? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss what the future holds for the Gators and whether the coach will be Chip Kelly,...
Published: 11/15/17
College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

Tuesday’s latest round of the College Football Playoff committee’s weekly rankings shows a clear path to a (relatively) controversy-free final four.Win out, and No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Wisconsin are in. So, too, is the winner of No. 2...
Published: 11/14/17
Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

MIAMI — A question that has been bubbling up all season crescendoed over the weekend after Miami’s 33-point thrashing of Notre Dame. Is the U back?"We are back," former Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted. "I don’t think anybody can say we’re not," receiver Braxto...
Published: 11/13/17