BY TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports journalist
Josh Heupel believes he can position football for long-term success in Tennessee when he joins former UCF boss Danny White, who started out as Tennessee sporting director last week, finalizes a new package for a program that deals with a NCAA investigation deals.
“We did an extensive nationwide search,” said White. “I know that sounds crazy because I’m hiring the man I’ve worked with for the past three years.” If anything, I tried not to rent the bus from UCF. “
White hired Heupel as Tennessee’s 27th head coach and fifth coach on Wednesday, with no interim or acting coach since the end of the 2008 season.
Heupel was awarded a six-year contract worth $ 4 million per year. Tennessee pays half of its buyout from UCF, and its contract includes a clause to renew its contract in the event of a postseason ban of two or more years or if eight or more scholarships are cut.
White said Heupel was his top contender based on his integrity, history of winning the title and an innovative football mind that led explosive crimes. Heupel said he wasn’t put off by the NCAA investigation that began with the sacking of Tennessee’s last manager, Jeremy Pruitt.
“I believe in a very, very bright future for football in Tennessee,” said Heupel. “I believe there is a little bit of a speed boost we’re going through, but the kids who are on our program right now and the kids who are being recruited will have the chance to play championships and chase.”
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 for a one-year extension in December 2018, which kept him under contract until the 2023 season.
White was hired on January 21st and his first job was to find a new coach. Pruitt, two assistants, and seven others were released on January 18.
The dismissals came after an internal investigation with outside lawyers into recruitment problems, which Chancellor Donde Plowman described as “mind-boggling”. The NCAA opened a case in December and had investigators involved in the past few weeks.
AP College Football writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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