Central Florida's Josh Heupel is finalizing a deal to become the new coach at Tennessee, according to a report this morning from Yahoo Sports. An announcement is expected later in the day in regards to the Volunteers' new plan going forward and — let's be honest — this is the best one that's been at work in Knoxville for a long, long time.
Heupel will join Danny White, his former athletic director at UCF, who left for oranger pastures last week. They will be the firefighters trying desperately to put out a dumpster fire raging on the banks of the Tennessee River. They'll be the financial wizards tasked with making the program financially solvent. They will be the the rebuilders.
It's been a revolving door at the still-proud-yet-not-entirely-successful school. Jeremy Pruitt went 16-19 over the past three years. Brady Hoke lost his only two games at the helm. Butch Jones went 34-27 in his five seasons running the show. Derek Dooley limped to 15-21. Lane Kiffin went 7-6 and was chased out of town. Only Jim Chaney, at 1-0, escaped indignity.
Before that was the final whispers of the Phillip Fulmer era, which petered out quickly and precipitously at the end. All told, Tennessee has exactly one 10-win season since 2004. It's a stretch so lackluster that Michigan fans feel confident pointing fingers and laughing at all the underacheiving and Nebraska fans see the Volunteers as an equal.
In short, things are really bad. But Heupel has proven himself capable of several things. One, winning football games; he went 28-8 and took a trip to the Fiesta Bowl with Central Florida. Two, creating devastating offenses, both in Orlando and at Oklahoma. Three, recruiting top talent to execute the scheme and developing it over time.
Per Pete Thamel, Heupel is coming at a very reasonable price point, which should allow spending on the defensive side of the football. He and White are fresh blood in a place where things have gotten very stale and toxic. It won't be an easy turnaround but it certainly seems like the path back to relevancy is clearer this morning than it's been in some time.