News started to leak late last night that new Tennessee athletic director Danny White may have found his guy to be the Volunteers' new head football coach. There was one report linking Josh Heupel — White's most recent hire at UCF — to the job, but nobody else had confirmed it. And then we woke up to find Heupel would be the next head football coach at the University of Tennessee.
I am going to do my absolute best to not shit on a guy personally before his first day on the job, because even as bad of a situation as this is, that's not entirely fair. HOWEVER, I am absolutely going to shit on White and a Tennessee football program which, for all intents and purposes, died on January 27, 2021 — though some would contend this happened far earlier.
Just as a quick recap, Tennessee hired White at a cool $1.8 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid athletic directors in the country. He got up in his introductory press conference and said all the right things and made a lot of people feel like he was the right guy for the job. We heard that money was going to be no object in this search and that the people in charge in Knoxville were finally serious about winning. What great things to hear after more than a decade's worth of embarrassment, right?
Well after all the flight tracking, the rumors of $50 million contracts being tossed around and several very good football coaches — Hugh Freeze, Lane Kiffin and Jamey Chadwell to name a few — all but publicly groveling for the job, White ends up going back to the school UT just hired him from and paying a $6 million buyout to hire a coach that UCF fans wanted to fire. Seriously.
And sure, there is a chance about as remote as Easter Island that Heupel comes in and takes the SEC by storm with a new brand of offense and wins games at Tennessee. There's about as good of a chance that pigs start flying, but there's a chance. But that's not the point.
One of two things happened during this coaching search. Either the University of Tennessee, with all of its incredibly rich tradition, world-class facilities and money (when it wants to spend it), had to go so far down its list that it ended up hiring a guy who just went 6-4 three years removed from a 13-0 "national championship" team or it hired an athletic director who is completely in over his head and had no clue what he was getting himself into. This ain't the AAC, Danny Boy.
But whichever of those two it was — and I believe it was the latter, for whatever that's worth — the result is the same. And if I was to place a bet on how the Josh Heupel era will go at Tennessee, I'd bet the under January 1, 2024 date for the next Vols coaching search. Is it even possible that the program could be in worse shape then than it is now? Maybe not. But I'd say it's a safe bet that the next head coach will have to recruit players who have quite literally never seen a good Tennessee football team.
And to be completely honest, it's getting pretty hard to get angry anymore. This school and football program have failed so repeatedly and spectacularly that I applaud anyone who still has the energy to get upset when things like this occur. The sobering reality is that it is far more likely things like this are going to continue to happen than it is Tennessee will ever be back to a national power in college football.
I'll see y'all back here in three years when it's time to do this all over again.