Virginia Tech football players vote to end season, snapping bowl streak at 27 (2024)

The Virginia Tech football team withdrew from bowl consideration, Hokies Coach Justin Fuente announced Wednesday afternoon, ending the longest active streak in major college football at 27 consecutive appearances after a season in which the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the program more than most.

Fuente indicated he met with the entire senior class and most of the other players individually before holding a full team meeting in the days following the regular season finale to reach a decision that was not unanimous.

“Our players have decided to not play,” Fuente said during a Zoom call with the media on national signing day. “I think it speaks to the difficulty of the season they’ve been through. There were players that wanted to play and were passionate about that, but we’re going to do this all together, or we’re not.”

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The Hokies (5-6, 5-5 ACC) end the year with a losing record for the first time since Fuente took over the program in 2016 from Frank Beamer.

The final memory of this season for the Hokies is Saturday night’s 33-15 win against visiting Virginia to reclaim the Commonwealth Cup behind 162 rushing yards and a touchdown from running back Khalil Herbert and one of the defense’s most robust performances under first-year coordinator Justin Hamilton.

Bowl season during the coronavirus: More teams are opting out of already diminished festivities

Despite a losing record, Virginia Tech was in line for a bowl invitation thanks to an NCAA exemption this season granting all schools eligibility regardless of record amid the pandemic, which had players, coaches and staff following safety protocols, including testing three times a week, for nearly six months.

“Our players are aware of all of that, and they take it very seriously,” Fuente said of the bowl streak. “So do all of our coaches. So do I. I believe that the players were the ones that sacrificed the most, so they should make the decision. That’s what they did, and I support them 100 percent.

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“I think they’re tired. It’s been really, really difficult, and I think their mental health is an important part of what we should take into consideration, how they’ve had to live their lives and what they’ve been doing and sacrificing. They’ve sacrificed enough.”

Nearly three-quarters of the team contracted the virus, Athletic Director Whit Babco*ck said Tuesday, as well as eight of the 10 full-time coaches. Fuente was not among the coaches with a positive result after more than three dozen rounds of testing.

In each of the first two games of the season, the Hokies had more than 20 players unavailable because of positive tests or contact tracing. Hamilton, promoted from safeties coach to replace retired longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster, also did not coach in either of those games because of virus-related issues.

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Outbreaks affected the secondary in particular, forcing Virginia Tech to play at times without both its starting cornerbacks and the top two reserves at the position. The Hokies finished 11th out of 15 teams in the conference in total defense, allowing 447.5 yards per game.

“It became evident that it was a very difficult situation,” Fuente said. “There’s kids that would like to go home for Christmas. There’s kids that haven’t been home in some time. This is ultimately about our kids. They’ve been at this for some time and given up freedoms and plenty of opportunities, so we’re going to turn the page and get ready to go.”

Virginia football ends season by withdrawing from bowl consideration

Fuente, meanwhile, finished with his fewest wins as a head coach since he went 3-9 in 2013, his second year at Memphis, drawing the ire of a restless Hokies fan base on social media that in part prompted Babco*ck’s unusual move to hold a news conference announcing Fuente, 44, would be retained.

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The most incendiary comments on Virginia Tech football message boards and Twitter came on the heels of a four-game losing streak — Fuente’s second such slide in Blacksburg, Va. — before the Hokies avenged last year’s 39-30 loss to their bitter instate rival at a virtually empty Lane Stadium.

Fuente and Babco*ck subsequently met for four hours to discuss all aspects of the program. Babco*ck said he left the meeting certain he had made the correct decision to keep Fuente, adding Fuente’s $10 million buyout was not a factor.

“Yes, we are in a bind financially,” Babco*ck said. “Yes, there’s buyouts, but we were determined to make the right decision either way because I cannot imagine a working relationship that you have somebody around that you don’t believe in that you just keep for money. You can lose or risk money no matter which way you go, so make the right decision, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Virginia Tech football players vote to end season, snapping bowl streak at 27 (2024)
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