Athletic director Danny White of New Tennessee didn’t have to look far in order to land his head football coach. White on Wednesday named Josh Heupel of UCF as the Vols’ next head coach. When White was the UCF athletic director, White previously employed Heupel.
In a quote, “We looked at a number of potential candidates,” White said. “Josh Heupel, who I had the privilege of working with for three years, is everything we were looking for: winning with integrity, a history of championships and the architect of explosive offenses. He is a players’ coach and the kind of person the student-athletes go the extra mile for. I saw that first-hand, and you can see it in his coaching record.”
White, named Thursday as the new AD of Tennessee, has been working quickly to find a replacement for Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired on Jan. 18 after an investigation that revealed what university chancellor Donde Plowman called “serious violations of NCAA rules.” White cast a broad net through the Parker Executive Search firm and reached out to and/or interviewed multiple applicants, including Pen.
Elliott had intense talks about the job over the past few days, but turned down Tennessee’s vacancies and opted to stay at Clemson.
Since taking over from Scott Frost, who led UCF to an undefeated 13-0 record in 2017, Heupel, 42, has been UCF’s head coach for the past three seasons. With the Knights, Heupel is 28-8, including a 12-1 record in his first season in 2018. This past season, they finished 6-4. According to the terms of his deal, Heupel will owe UCF a $3.4 million buyout.
“I am thrilled to be coming to Tennessee,” said Heupel in a tweet in Tennessee. “I understand that Volunteer fans are hungry for a return to the top that they so richly deserve, and it is my goal and commitment to bring a championship back to Rocky Top.”
In scoring offense, UCF ranked in the top eight nationally and scored at least 42.2 points per game in all three of his seasons in Orlando. Heupel has SEC coaching experience as a Heisman Trophy runner-up as a quarterback on Oklahoma’s national championship team in 2000.
Before landing the UCF head-coaching job, he was Missouri’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2016-17. Heupel was also the four-season co-offensive coordinator/quarterback coach under Bob Stoops in Oklahoma, but after the 2014 season, when the Sooners went 8-5, he was fired.
Heupel is going to be the sixth head coach of the Vols, going back to Phillip Fulmer, who was fired at the end of the 2008 season. On the same day Tennessee announced it was firing Pruitt for cause, Fulmer, who was named athletic director in December 2017, retired from that post.