KNOXVILLE — Josh Heupel said he believes he can position Tennessee football for long-term success as he joins his former UCF boss Danny White, who started as Tennessee’s athletic director last week, in a new package deal for a program dealing with an NCAA investigation.

“We ran an exhaustive nationwide search,” White said. “I know that sounds crazy because I’m hiring the guy I’ve worked with the last three years. If anything, I was trying not to hire the coach from UCF.”

White hired Heupel on Wednesday as Tennessee’s 27th head coach and fifth coach, not counting interim or acting coaches, since the end of the 2008 season.

Heupel received a six-year deal worth $4 million a year. Tennessee will pay half his buyout from UCF, and his contract has a clause extending his deal in case of a postseason ban of two or more years or if eight or more scholarships are cut.

White said Heupel was his top candidate based on his integrity, history of winning titles and being an innovative football mind who has led explosive offenses. Heupel said he wasn’t deterred by the NCAA investigation that started with the firing of Tennessee’s last coach, Jeremy Pruitt.

“I believe in a very, very bright future for Tennessee football,” Heupel said. “I believe that there’s a minor speed bump that we’re going through, but the kids that are in our program right now and the kids that are being recruited are going to have a chance to play and chase championships.”

Heupel was 28-8 in three seasons at UCF, where White hired him to replace Scott Frost after the Knights went 13-0 in 2017. White signed Heupel to a one-year extension in December 2018 that kept him under contract through the 2023 season.

White was hired on Jan. 21 and his first job was to find a new coach. Pruitt, two assistants and seven others were fired on Jan. 18.

The firings followed an internal investigation with outside attorneys into recruiting issues that Chancellor Donde Plowman called “stunning.” The NCAA opened a case in December and has had investigators involved the past couple weeks.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.