Virginia Tech's Justin Fuente out of running at Baylor

Justin Fuente has decided to stay at Virginia Tech, one day after meeting with Baylor officials about the football program's head-coaching vacancy.

Fuente tweeted "2020 -- Let's go!" with a photo of his staff on Thursday. A Virginia Tech official confirmed Fuente will remain with the Hokies. Fuente had emerged as the top candidate to replace Matt Rhule, who left Baylor for the Carolina Panthers, but a few factors may have weighed on Fuente as he made his decision.

He had just completed a defensive staff overhaul, filling his last assistant spot this past Tuesday with new cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith. After defensive coordinator Bud Foster announced his retirement, Fuente promoted Justin Hamilton to fill his spot. In all, Fuente hired four new defensive coaches and a new football operations director over the past month.

In addition, the Hokies appeared to turn around the direction of the program in the second half of the season behind quarterback Hendon Hooker, who returns to lead the team. Virginia Tech finished 8-5 after appearing to teeter on the brink of missing a bowl game, though a loss to Virginia for the first time since 2003 and then a heartbreaking, last-minute loss to Kentucky in the Belk Bowl renewed some questions, especially among the fans.

With Hooker returning, along with key players like linebacker Rayshard Ashby and cornerback Caleb Farley, Fuente believes there is plenty to build on in 2020.

Fuente, 43, is 33-20 in four seasons with the Hokies after replacing Frank Beamer in 2016.

With Fuente out of the mix, Baylor interim coach Joey McGuire, Louisiana's Billy Napier and LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda remain strong candidates to replace Rhule.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said in a call with local reporters Thursday that Fuente told him Tuesday that Baylor had reached out about the job. Fuente and Baylor met on Wednesday in Virginia, and by Thursday morning Fuente told Babcock he was staying.

Babcock said Fuente did not use the Baylor job as leverage to get a new contract or more money allocated to his coaching staff and resources. Fuente and Babcock already had conversations about the operating budget and strategically investing money in more recruiting resources, infrastructure and staff during an end-of-year meeting two weeks ago.

Babcock would not confirm whether Fuente was offered the job, saying only, "It's not my position to speak to that. He told them this morning that he was not interested."

As for having his head coach interview for another job in January, Babcock says he does not view it as disloyalty. In fact, Babcock pointed out that Fuente had turned down numerous other interview requests during his time at Virginia Tech and Baylor was the first school he listened to.

"Justin's from out that way and spent a lot of time in the Big 12 and of course you never love it when your coach is talking to other people but he has turned down a number of other opportunities, a lot of money, and his loyalty is probably not as widely known as it should be," Babcock said.