Tennessee is set to introduce Josh Heupel from Central Florida as its next head coach Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the decision told USA Today Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
At Tennessee, Heupel will reunite with athletics director Danny White, who was hired out of UCF to run the Vols’ athletic department last week.
It was not Tennessee’s initial intention to hire White and Heupel as a package deal. According to a person with knowledge of the search process, Tennessee’s overtures to high-profile coaches were rejected. Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was also considered.
The Tennessee job was not particularly attractive at the moment to many potential candidates due to the uncertainty surrounding potential NCAA sanctions.
The school fired former coach Jeremy Pruitt with cause after initiating an investigation into allegations of illegal recruiting practices, theoretically avoiding a $12 million buyout. Pruitt’s attorney has said they will seek payment of that buyout through litigation.
UCF coach Josh Heupel reacts on the sidelines during a game last season at Pittsburgh. [Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports] (Photo: Charles LeClaire, Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
But whatever money Tennessee potentially saved by finding NCAA violations made the search for Pruitt’s replacement significantly more difficult. Ultimately, White landed on a coach he was familiar with.
Heupel replaced Scott Frost in 2018 and kept UCF’s dominance of the American Athletic Conference going initially, finishing 12-1 with an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. But UCF has been on a downward trajectory since then, going 10-3 in 2019 and finishing 6-4 this past season.
Heupel is considered an innovative offensive mind, as the Knights finished second nationally in total offense last season at 568.1 years per game.
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