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Tennessee hires UCF's Josh Heupel as new football coach

Football coach Josh Heupel on Wednesday left the University of Central Florida to take the same job at the University of Tennessee. Photo by UCF Knights/YouTube
Football coach Josh Heupel on Wednesday left the University of Central Florida to take the same job at the University of Tennessee. Photo by UCF Knights/YouTube

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The University of Tennessee has hired former University of Central Florida coach Josh Heupel as its new head football coach, the school announced Wednesday.

"I am thrilled to be coming to Tennessee," Heupel said in a news release. "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."

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Heupel compiled a 28-8 record in three seasons as coach of the Knights. He led the team to a 12-1 record in 2018 before the Knights went 10-3 in 2019. UCF posted a 6-4 mark in 2020. Heupel went 1-2 in bowl games as coach of the Knights.

The 42-year-old coach was a decorated college quarterback. He won the BCS National Championship game in 2000 at Oklahoma. He also was an All-American and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting that season.

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Heupel was a sixth-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2001 NFL Draft. He also spent time with the Green Bay Packers before he ended his playing career. He then became a graduate assistant in 2004 at Oklahoma. Heupel went on to coach tight ends at Arizona and worked as a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.

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He also was hired as offensive coordinator at Utah State and Missouri before he received his first head coaching job in 2017 from UCF.

Tennessee athletic director Danny White had served as UCF's athletic director since 2015 before he was hired on Jan. 21 to lead the Volunteers program.

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"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."

Tennessee fired former coach Jeremy Pruitt on Jan. 18, citing violations of NCAA rules. Pruitt went 16-19 in three seasons as coach of the Volunteers. Tennessee went 3-7 in 2020.

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