Josh Heupel leaving UCF to become Tennessee’s next head coach

Heupel went 28-8 in 3 years with the Knights

Central Florida head coach Josh Heupel, right, has words with head linesman Jim Casey, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Josh Heupel is leaving UCF to become the next Tennessee head football coach.

Tennessee hired Danny White away from UCF as its athletic director last Thursday, and his first job was finding a new football coach to replace Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired Jan. 18.

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Heupel informed his staff Wednesday that he was heading to Tennessee, according to the AP, citing a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

Heupel was 28-8 in three seasons at UCF, where White hired him to replace Scott Frost after the Knights went 13-0 in 2017. White signed Heupel to a one-year extension in December 2018 that kept him under contract through the 2023 season.

He will become Tennessee’s fifth head coach, not counting interim or acting coaches, since the end of the 2008 season.

UCF, meanwhile, named interim roles for its vacant AD and head coach positions.

Scott Carr, deputy AD for brand activation, is now serving as interim director of athletics, and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon will serve as interim head coach.

“UCF will move quickly to hire a director of athletics, whose first job will then be to hire a head football coach,” the school said in a news release. “The university anticipates finalizing the selection of a search firm this week to help to identify and recruit the best candidates for director of athletics.”

Shannon has been the UCF defensive coordinator and linebackers coach since 2018. He previously was head coach at the University of Miami (2007-10) and has been an assistant coach at TCU, Arkansas and Florida and with the Miami Dolphins. He also served as interim head coach at Florida in 2017.

“We would like to thank Coach Heupel for his contributions to UCF, and we wish Josh, Dawn, Hannah and Jace the best in their new endeavor,” UCF said.