Tech’s Fuente reached out to Virginia’s Mendenhall over postponement

Hokies rover back arrested for strangulation, assault

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente (Photo: hokiesports.com)

Justin Fuente and Bronco Mendenhall have been battling against each other for at least a dozen years.

Their first clashes came when Mendenhall was head coach at BYU, while Fuente was an assistant coach at opposing TCU. The next collision came in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl when head coach Fuente’s Memphis team outlasted Mendenhall’s BYU squad, 55-48, in double overtime. Some might have called it a triple overtime because the two teams broke out into a brawl shortly after the game ended.

These days, Fuente’s Virginia Tech team and Mendenhall’s Virginia Cavaliers battle annually for superiority in the Commonwealth.

After both teams had scheduled season openers postponed or canceled due to a variety of pandemic-related issues, it was settled that UVA would open its season at Tech this coming Saturday. Last Saturday, the Hokies announced that they couldn’t field a representative team due to an unspecified amount of players testing positive for Covid-19. The game is yet to be rescheduled but will be played.

Certainly the announcement caused a furor, particularly among UVA players, coaches and fans. Virginia had no positive virus tests over several rounds of testing.

Fuente said Monday that he felt it was necessary to reach out to Mendenhall after last Saturday morning’s postponement.

“I called Bronco on Saturday and talked to him,” Fuente said. “I told him there was no way we could walk out there and safely put our kids on the football field. That’s just the facts of it. I hate that is the situation we’re in. Our kids was incredibly disappointed. I know they and I probably took quite a bit of flack from it, but the bottom line is it was absolutely the right call.”

Fuente said the decision to postpone had “nothing to do with competitive advantage,” during a video conference with media.

Photo by Matt Riley, UVA Athletics

“Bronco and I — and I understand where we coach and the rivalry — but we’ve coached against each other for a long time. I just felt like it was the right thing to do. We’ve competed so hard against each other for so many years. There’s certainly empathy there. We all understand what we’re all going through, but I wanted to just make sure he knew what was happening and why it was happening from me and not somebody else.”

In another development stemming from Fuente’s presser, the coach confirmed that Hokies rover Devon Hunter had been suspended indefinitely from the program for not upholding the team’s high standards.

It has since been discovered that Hunter, a native of Chesapeake (Indian River H.S.), was arrested Sunday in Christiansburg and charged with strangling another to cause wound or injury, and simple assault against a family member, according to the Montgomery County Jail. While the assault charge is a misdemeanor, the strangulation charge is a felony.

Redshirt junior Reggie Floyd is expected to replace Hunter in the lineup. Hunter appeared in 13 games last season with two starts to his credit.

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