Memphis head coach Justin Fuente looks on before an NCAA college football game against SMU at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. Memphis won 63-0. (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP Photo
November 29, 2015

Virginia Tech hired Memphis' Justin Fuente as its next football coach Sunday, bringing a quick end to its search for a successor to Frank Beamer.

Beamer is retiring after 29 seasons and will now be followed by a 39-year-old coach who has spent the past four seasons at Memphis, turning a struggling program into a winner.

The Tigers, who compete in the American Athletic Conference, were 10-3 last season, including a 55-48, double-overtime victory against BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. They are 9-3 this season, including a 63-0 victory against SMU on Saturday in Fuente's final game.

Virginia Tech said defensive coordinator Bud Foster, thought to be a candidate for the job, will remain in that position at Fuente's request. Virginia Tech will introduce Fuente at a news conference Monday.

Fuente took over at Memphis for the 2012 season, after the Tigers had gone 5-31 in the three previous seasons. He quickly engineered a turnaround, guiding them to their first 10-win season since 1938 last year, and a No. 25 ranking in the final AP Top 25, a program first.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said he identified Fuente as a top candidate early in his search to replace Beamer, the sixth-winningest coach at the FBS level in college history. The Hokies' 23-20 victory at Virginia on Saturday was the 279th of his career.

''As our conversations progressed, we then met in person and it became obvious he is the right person to lead our football program,'' Babcock said in a statement. ''He possesses wisdom beyond his years, as well as a refreshing sense of humility and a calm confidence.''

The Tigers won their last seven games to end last season and their first eight to start this season, using a high-powered offense that outscored its opponents by an average of nearly 21 points. The streak included a 37-24 victory against No. 13 Mississippi this Oct. 17.

Last season, the Tigers set a school record by scoring 471 points while allowing just 19.5 points, 11th best among FBS schools.

Before taking over at Memphis, Fuente spent five years on Gary Patterson's staff at TCU, the last three as the play-caller for an offensive power that won 36 of 39 games and put together a 24-game winning streak in the Mountain West Conference. The Horned Frogs, in that three-year period, were the only school to finish in the top 10 of both the AP and USA Today polls all three years and played in two BCS bowl games.

Fuente, a quarterback in his playing days at Oklahoma and then Murray State, will be welcomed by Hokies fans because of his penchant for innovation, and production, on offense, as will the news that Foster has elected to stay as defensive coordinator. Virginia Tech fans have long felt that offensive deficiencies kept the Hokies from reaching their potential, especially as Foster kept assembling top 10 defenses.

''I've been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,'' Foster said in the statement. ''I enjoyed that chapter and the success we've had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin.''

Since Foster became Beamer's defensive coordinator in 1996, the Hokies lead the nation in interceptions and sacks.

Babcock said after the Hokies' victory at Virginia that Beamer and his staff will coach the bowl game, the school's 23rd in a row.

Fuente, meanwhile, will begin assembling a staff and adding to his reputation as a skilled recruiter.

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AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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