KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee is finalizing a deal to hire UCF head coach Josh Heupel to the same position, industry sources confirm to NewsChannel 5. The deal was first reported by Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.
The announcement reunites Heupel with new Vols athletic director Danny White, who also hired him at UCF three years ago. It ends a whirlwind period of nine days in which Tennessee fired former coach Jeremy Pruitt for recruiting violations and announced the retirement of then-AD Phillip Fulmer, before hiring White on Friday and now Heupel.
Heupel is 28-8 in three seasons as a head coach in Orlando. He inherited a program that went unbeaten under Scott Frost in 2017 and went 12-1 in 2018, but his record dropped to 10-3 in 2019 and 6-4 this past season.
Heupel previously worked as offensive coordinator at Missouri and Utah State and spent more than a decade at his alma mater, Oklahoma, the final four seasons as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He has a reputation as a good developer of QB’s, having recruited Jordan Love to Utah State and having worked with Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, Drew Lock at Missouri, and McKenzie Milton and Dillon Gabriel at UCF.
The Knights offense under Heupel has been entertaining, averaging 43.2 points per game in 2018, then 43.5 in 2019, which ranked sixth and fifth in the country in scoring respectively.
Heupel, who will turn 43 in March, played for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. He ranks second all-time at the school in passing and led the Sooners to the 2000 BCS National Championship while finishing second to Florida State QB Chris Weinke for the Heisman.
Heupel inherits a Tennessee team that went just 3-7 last season under Pruitt and likely will face NCAA sanctions as a result of the ongoing investigation. Other coaches linked to the job include Penn State’s James Franklin, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, Buffalo’s Lance Leipold and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, but ultimately White went with the candidate he knew best and brought Heupel from Orlando with him.