Sources: UCF’s Heupel to be Tennessee coach
- College football reporter
- Joined ESPN.com in 2007
- Graduate of the University of Tennessee
New Tennessee athletic director Danny White didn’t have to look far to land his head football coach.
Sources told ESPN that White is hiring UCF’s Josh Heupel as the Vols’ next head coach. White also hired Heupel when White was the UCF athletic director. Tennessee called a team meeting for 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
White, announced last Thursday as Tennessee’s new AD, has been working fast to find a replacement for Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired for cause Jan. 18 following an investigation that uncovered what university chancellor Donde Plowman called “serious violations of NCAA rules.” White cast a wide net through the Parker Search Firm and reached out to and/or interviewed several candidates, including Penn State’s James Franklin, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, SMU’s Sonny Dykes, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, among others.
Sources told ESPN that Elliott over the last few days had serious discussions about the job, but turned down Tennessee’s overtures and elected to stay at Clemson.
Heupel, 42, has been UCF’s head coach the past three seasons after taking over for Scott Frost, who guided UCF to an unbeaten 13-0 record in 2017. Heupel is 28-8 with the Knights, including a 12-1 record in his first season in 2018. They finished 6-4 this past season. Heupel would owe UCF a $3.4 million buyout per the terms of his contract.
UCF has ranked in the top-8 nationally in scoring offense all three of his seasons in Orlando and has averaged at least 42.2 points per game all three seasons.
A Heisman Trophy runner-up as a quarterback on Oklahoma’s national championship team in 2000, Heupel has SEC coaching experience. He was Missouri’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2016-17 prior to landing the UCF head coaching job. Heupel was also the co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma for four seasons, but was fired following the 2014 season when the Sooners went 8-5.
Heupel would be the Vols’ sixth different head coach going back to Phillip Fulmer, who was fired at the end of the 2008 season.
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