Coaching search: Memphis head coach Justin Fuente
If Sheahon Zenger decides that Clint Bowen is not the best man to reverse the fortunes of a football program in the midst of its worst five-year record and saddled by a 2015 roster woefully thin in quantity and quality, look for the following in the background of the coach to whom Zenger turns:
1 - A leader with a background working on offense.
2 - A coach who knows the Big 12’s most fertile recruiting areas of Texas and Oklahoma and would have concrete ideas on how to assemble a staff that has well-placed contacts.
3 - A man with experience leading a turn-around program.
4 - Inside knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in the KU football program.
Third-year Memphis coach Justin Fuente never worked for the KU football program, but he meets all the other criteria.
Fuente, 38, inherited a program that had a 5-31 record in the previous three seasons and, according to the Associated Press, had 51 scholarship players upon his arrival, a figure similar to what KU will have this spring.
Typically, it takes at least three years to show positive signs when starting in such a deep hole. The Tigers (8-3 overall, 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference) are riding a five-game winning streak. Unless upset by UConn on Saturday, the Tigers will win the conference and have their first-game winning streak since 1969. Fuente went 4-8 and 3-9 in his first two seasons at Memphis.
His three losses this season: At UCLA, 42-35, at Ole Miss, 24-3, at home vs. Houston, 28-24.
A native of Tulsa, Fuente played quarterback at Union High and then at Oklahoma. He won the job and lost it a couple of times with the Sooners and then transferred to Murray State, where he excelled.
Fuente was hired by Illinois State as quarterbacks coach in 2001. By the time Zenger was hired as ISU’s AD, Fuente was the offensive coordinator. He left there for TCU.