Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente


Dr. Shirley C. Raines Opening Statement

Welcome to everyone. Thank you for coming to the press conference today. Before I introduce our new head coach, I want to say a special thank you to the search committee. Iím going to introduce all of them, and then let you give them a round of applause at the end.

Our co-chairs were Brad Martin, former Chairman of the Board of Visitors; and Willie Gregory from Nike Corporation. Also, Mike Fredi, President of the Highland Hundred; Cato Johnson, a former President of the Alumni Association; Tom Watson, an Ambassador; Dr. Ed Stevens, the Faculty Athletic Representative; and Alan Graf, President of the Tiger Scholarship Fund. Gentleman, thank you. {applause}

The search committee and I were impressed with Justin Fuente. We were impressed with his exciting ideas, his energy and his enthusiasm. We also were impressed that he was the co-offensive coordinator and play-caller for TCUís back-to-back BCS appearances, including winning the 2011 Rose Bowl. He is a native of Tulsa. Justin and his wife, Jenny, a former volleyball coach, are eager to make Memphis their home for themselves and their two daughters, Cecilia and the newest addition, Caroline. Cecilia is three-and-a-half, and Caroline is two months old.

Let me introduce Cecilia and Carolineís father. Let me introduce to you, the University of Memphis head coach and newest Tiger, Justin Fuente. {applause}

Justin Fuente Opening Statement

It doesnít get old hearing that. Thatís about the third time Iíve gotten to hear that today, and it really excites me. Before I begin, I think Iíd be remiss if I didnít thank Dr. Raines for having the courage to make this decision, for the way this whole process was conducted and for her support over the last 24 hours. I look forward to a wonderful relationship. I want to thank her and the entire search committee for their thoroughness, their professionalism and, obviously, for their decision. I also know that R.C. (Johnson) is going to step down in a few months, and I look forward to working with him and going into the transition with the new Athletic Director. I know it will be a seamless one. I look forward to working with him (Johnson) in his last few months before retirement and allowing him to show me the ropes here before he goes and plays a lot of golf or whatever he likes to do in his spare time.

This is a big challenge, and I am so ready for this challenge. Iíve been dreaming of this moment for a long, long time. This is the place I want to be for as long as youíll have me. Iím so honored today to be your football coach. Iím honored to be a member of your community. Iím honored to have my family here. Iím honored to wear blue and be a Tiger. {applause}

We are going to run our program like a family. You see my two beautiful girls that will probably get loud here in a minute and my lovely wife, Jenny. Obviously without Jenny, I wouldnít be here. She makes me a better person. Weíre going to run this like a family. Families are honest. Families work hard. Families get results together. Thatís what weíre setting out to do. Weíre going to reach out to the community. This is going to be Memphisí team. This is the University of Memphis football, but itís the city of Memphis. I donít care what school you went to; if you live in this city, I want this to be your team. I donít care where youíre from; if you live in this city, I want this to be your team. I want you to embrace athletics. That is one of the great things about athletics. It brings people from all walks of life together. It brings young, old, rich, poor, from the north side, from the south side, different racial barriers, all of that is broken down through athletics because nobody cares. We just want something to cheer for.

Everyone in here has a love for this University. I share that love, but Iím just entering into it. Iím just entering into the Memphis family. I just want you to know that Iím going to pour my heart and soul into this program. Iím going to do everything I can to make sure our kids act right, on and off the field. Weíre going to make sure weíre involved in this community and we reach out because I believe this city is hungry, hungry, hungry for success. {applause}

This job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Iím ready for it. I thank you all. I cannot wait to get started, not that I donít enjoy doing this kind of stuff, but Iím excited to meet the team. I havenít yet, but Iíve had that part on my calendar lined up from the very start. I canít wait for that meeting. Weíre going to reach out to the community, and weíre going to play fast, fast, fast offensive football and weíre going to recruit fast, fast, fast defensive players. {applause} Weíre going to be exciting, well-coached and disciplined, and weíre going to build this thing the right way, from the ground up with everybodyís support and with everybody cheering us on the entire way. Weíre going to involve everyone in this program. This is your program. I cannot wait to get started.

Justin Fuente Q&A

From what you know about the program, what are the biggest challenges that this program faces?
We have several. Weíve got to engage this community. That is the first thing that weíve got to do. I want people to feel invested in our program. I want people to feel like they have a chip in the game. Weíve got to reach out to the community because they will support us. Thatís the first thing that we need to do.

On the field, Iím a little remiss in that I donít know exactly where weíre at there. Iím looking forward to finding out. Obviously, weíre in the middle of recruiting and I have to build our staff so those are two challenges right there. We are a little short on guys right now, so thatís one thing weíll have to build up and you canít just do that immediately. That will take a few years. The biggest thing that weíll have to do from the football side is weíve got to get a staff together and hit the ground running recruiting. From a program and community standpoint, I want to get people involved.

What will your media policies be?
I can tell you basically, weíll have a much more liberal media policy than, from what I understand, theyíve had here in the past. Iím not going to lay out the exact guidelines right now. I can tell you that our practices will be more accessible and our coaches will be more accessible. Iím not sure what the policy prior to me was with the players, so Iím not going to say that theyíll be more accessible because I donít know what it was. But, all in all, the media will feel like itís a much more open book.

What will be your message to the team?
Part of that is between the team and me, and Iím going to keep it there. But the other part is I understand where theyíve been. My playing experience, without getting into it, led to several different coaches. Thatís an odd feeling. Youíre not going to play for the guy that recruited you. So Iím going to address a little bit of that. The only way for this to work is if we all buy in. We canít have dissension; we have to all be together. So weíll talk a little bit about that.

Then Iím going to just tell them a little bit about myself. A strange man walks into a room and now heís supposed to be your coach; I imagine thatís a little bit of an uneasy feeling. You donít know much about him. So weíll sit down and talk a little bit. Iíll lay out some guidelines of what I expect from them. The number one thing right now will be finishing up finals. Weíll lay out some guidelines and make sure they finish the semester on the right foot, and then when they come back, weíll really hit the ground running.

What made this job a fit for you?
I think there are a lot of great things about Memphis football. There are good athletes in this city, in this region and in this part of the country. I think you play in a league that you can be competitive in. Iím pretty familiar with Conference USA. I think itís a league that we can be competitive in. We have facilities that are competitive with the people we are going to play against. Now, in this part of the country, you have to recruit against some other people, but I think that this has some tangible things that excite me and some intangible things that really excite me. I really, really, really believe that this community is ready to get behind this team. I think we can do it.

What makes you feel that you have the unique gifts to get this program where you say the people here want it to be?
I just have them. {applause} I can recruit, Iím organized, and Iíve been a part of a great program. Iím not going to make the whole press conference about that, but Iíve seen how it was done. At the last place, we didnít always have the biggest stick, but we got it done. So Iíve seen how it can be done. Xís and Oís and offense and stuff like that I also have a great background in. So Iíve seen the program, Iíve seen the blueprint and I have the blueprint of how it was done in what I would consider to be a similar situation 10 to 12 years ago.

Can you talk about your timetable with TCU?
As far as my timetable with TCU, after talking to Coach Patterson last night, obviously Iím not going to coach in the bowl game. Thereís just no way I can get back there and do an adequate job. It wouldnít be fair to those kids and the staff. They have more-than-competent people to step in there and do a great job. I know theyíll play well in the bowl game. So Iím full-time at Memphis. Iím not going to split duties.

Can you take us through the last 24 hours of you being hired?
The last 24 hours have been exhilarating. I think it was yesterday, I was in Fort Worth and we were getting ready (for the bowl game with TCU). I had actually put my stuff from the interview in one of my files and said, ĎWell, that was fun. That was a great experience.í I got into the office early and wrote all the thank you notes to everybody that are actually in the mail to you all right now. You might get one of those here shortly. I started my day and then my phone started ringing off the hook. Then we got closer to it and closer to it and closer to it, and I talked to a bunch of people, Jenny and people Iíve worked with. I actually went to practice yesterday at TCU, and I knew it had a chance to be my last one there. I obviously didnít say anything to anybody because it wasnít final. We had a good practice and then I got off the phone, sprinted to the car and jumped on the plane to come here. I didnít sleep except about 10 or 15 minutes and then woke up and started the day. Itís been a lot of fun.

Do you have an idea of who you want on your staff and do you have a timetable for hiring them?
I have a great idea of what I want to do with my staff. Without getting into the specifics, which Iím not going to do right now, I do have a great direction and a great idea of what I want to do. There are a lot of coaches out there that want to come to this place, so weíre going to bring good coaches here. I want to talk to all of them. Our timetable will be to go fairly quick, but Iím not going to rush things and make a mistake. I have an idea of the general direction or at least the initial direction to move quickly, and then I think youíll see it come in bits and pieces.

What will you do differently to make sure the community support is behind you and that this is Memphisí team?
Iím going to get out and beat pots and pans in the street if I have to. {applause} If I have to speak at every Boy Scout meeting, Kiwanis Club, whatever we have to do. The second thing is Iím going to make sure my staff is involved in it too. I think itís important for the community to know everybody involved, not just me. I think itís important for those guys professionally, for dreams they have down the road, to be involved in that sort of stuff. Plus, they want to know people too. It shouldnít always just have to be me. Weíre going to get out there and do everything we can. Iíve talked about opening up our program just a little bit compared maybe to what itís been in the past. The last thing is weíre going to display our kids, too. The type of kids that we need out there and in the community, weíre going put them out there. Thatís the great thing about this deal and why coaches get into coaching, to teach. Thatís the fun of it. Being around these young people is really thrilling, and it would be a shame not to share that with you guys.

Do you think itís important to play high-profile teams to get excitement in the community and among recruits?
I think scheduling is very important. I think the timing of your scheduling is also very important. You have to understand where youíre at. Weíre going to look at that very carefully. When we get down the road, Iím open to playing those types of games. Iím not scared of anyone. But we need to be smart. We need to build this thing the right way so weíll take all those factors into consideration.

When did you first interview and did you target this job? Take us through that process a little bit, when you interviewed in New York.
Well, New York for a guy like me is pretty daunting. I wouldíve rather been in Memphis. I got to Manhattan around 3 p.m. Itís three weeks before Christmas, and there were people everywhere. The way these things have come about over the past few years has changed, without getting overly into it. But obviously, when the job came open my ears perked up. I finished my schooling at Murray State in Kentucky, so Iím familiar with the region and have been to Memphis several times. When the job came open, I pursued it. I wanted to be the coach here because I think you can do it. I know you can do it. I tried to attack it as much as I could, and thatís how I tried to handle the interview. I tried to go in there and let them see me. I wasnít trying to be fake, but I tried to portray that I want this job. Iím ready for this construction project, if you will. Iím ready for this, and I have a plan.

I gathered thereís a National Championship bonus in your contract; is it true and was it your idea?
It might be in there. {says jokingly}

How much discussion did you have with the committee and the president as far as facilities and upgrades and your idea of what needs to be done?
We talked about it. When youíre interviewing at a place (New York) thatís not where youíre going to work, itís a little different. We had lengthy discussions about that sort of stuff. I know thereís a campaign going on right now so Iím fully confident that project is going to get completed and weíre going to move on to the next project. We have things to sell here right now. We donít need to remake everything. Do we need to continue to improve? Absolutely. We had conversations about it.

You said that youíve seen how itís done and you have a blueprint. Can you give us some of the points in that blueprint?
Sure. Building a program starts with relationships. It starts with your relationships in your community, relationships with your boss and relationships with your staff. Then, it turns to your relationships with your players. I believe whole-heartedly that our assistant coaches need to be as close to our players as they can be in order for them to ask more of our players. I think that the blueprint comes down to the way you practice, the way your offseason is run, the way youíre organized in your recruiting, the way youíre organized in recruiting during the season, the way you handle official visits, the way you handle unofficial visits and the way you develop your players, both when youíre finding them and once theyíre here. Those are the main factors that go in that. You have to do it the right way. Itís not always the easy way; sometimes itís the long way. But thatís what weíre ready to take on.

Was there ever a time when you thought this job was going to somebody else?
I didnít keep track of it, to be honest with you. You never know. Information today flies around so quickly, and half of itís right and half of itís wrong. I just went to work. I didnít know one way or the other, to be honest with you. Obviously, I did a self-evaluation after the interview, like anybody would do. But as far as trying to figure out who was going to get the job or anything like that, I didnít know.

What did Coach Patterson tell you when you told him you were leaving?
Coach Patterson told me thank you for your time and for everything youíve done for TCU and go get the job done. He had words of advice when I talked to him about it. Coach Patterson has been very supportive of me. He gave me a lot of responsibility early and has always been kind of hands-off with us and let us do our thing on that side of the ball. Heís a defensive coach. Heís the head coach, but heís very involved with the defense. It was a very amicable situation. I think the world of him and his family and his program. I have a lot of great friends on that staff that weíll miss, but weíll make new ones.

Have you been assured by the committee that the appropriate resources will be given to you to get a great staff?
They told me to go get the people that I want to get.

How will you sell your program to recruits?
Do you want to build something? Do you want to build a program? Do you want to get in on the ground floor and build this thing with us? This is what weíre going to do, and this is how weíre going to do it. Do you want to compete for and win conference championships for years to come? I think thatís what you have to sell. Other places have things to sell as well, but here, youíre going to get a chance to build this with your own hands and be a part of it. I think obviously you hit on the past successes weíve had and how thatís going to fit in here and talk about all the great things that there are in this city.

Are you at all worried about being given the amount of time to build the program? Have you been given assurances that youíll have more time than your predecessor?
No, Iím not worried. I have a contract, and Iím not worried. I donít know how to answer that any other way. I think that the people in power here believe in me and believe that Iím going to do this the right way and believe that Iím the person that fits this University. I believe theyíre going to give me the time to get this job done.

How quickly can you jump into recruiting?
Immediately. Weíve got to go. I havenít seen those guys (that were previously recruited), and Iím looking forward to speaking with them. Iím going to start and get rolling.

The previous coach had made some in-roads locally with recruits here who committed. Are you willing to honor those commitments or are you starting from scratch?
Itís a little bit remiss for me to talk about people that I have no idea who they are. I havenít been here long enough to even really address that. Iím looking forward to meeting those people. But itís a little unfair for me to make any comment on it just because I donít know anything about those people. Iím looking forward to finding out about them.

How much time do you feel it will take you to get this program steered in the right direction?
I donít know. You can get steered in the right direction immediately. You can start to steer and get everything lined up and going the right way immediately. How long will it take results to show? I donít know. I know this. Weíre not going to make excuses about anything. Weíre going to do this the right way. Weíre going to go out there and play the guys on our schedule and go give it our best shot. I donít want to put a timeframe on anything other than weíre going to get this thing straightened out, pointed in the right direction and run correctly and let the chips fall where they may. I think you can measure it and see it immediately if things are going in the right direction.

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