Albuquerque Journal

Heupel rejoins his old boss at Tennessee

- JOURNAL STAFF AND WIRES

Josh Heupel was introduced Wednesday as Tennessee’s 27th head coach and fifth, not counting interim or acting coaches, since the end of the 2008 season. The former UCF coach replaces Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired Jan. 18 after an investigat­ion into recruiting issues.

He said he talked “frankly” with Tennessee leadership about what happened and the anticipate­d punishment of NCAA sanctions.

“I believe that there’s a minor speed bump that we’re going through, but the kids that are in our program right now and the kids that are being recruited are all going to have an opportunit­y to go play and chase championsh­ips,” Heupel said.

His optimism was rewarded with a six-year deal worth $4 million a year. Tennessee will pay half of Heupel’s buyout from UCF, and his contract has a clause extending his deal in case of a postseason ban of two or more years or if eight or more scholarshi­ps are cut.

New athletic director Danny White said Tennessee ran an “exhaustive nationwide search” led by the same search firm that helped land White. But he said Heupel was his No. 1 option even after that process.

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