Tennessee Coach Josh Heupel earns $9M contract extension

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After giving Tennessee his all for the past two seasons, coach Josh Heupel is getting a contract extension worth millions.

Heupel’s renewal terms include $8,725,000 million in annual compensation plus incentives that will keep him in Big Orange through January 2029. Compensation is roughly equivalent to a monthly paycheck of $727,000, excluding taxes and the like. The renewal also adds a year to the last renewal signed last year.

The new contract extension also deletes a line in a previous contract that capped annual compensation at $1.2 million. The contract extension increases the number of return flights Heupel is entitled to to five, with an additional 10 “occupied routes”.

Under Heupel’s leadership, Tennessee experienced its first 11-win season in more than two decades. He has an 18-8 overall record, seven wins over top 25 teams at the time of the meeting, the program’s first pick of the new year in the college football playoff era, and a No. 6 finisher. The seven ranked wins rank third nationally among FBS head coaches during that span. UT was 3-7 a season before Heupel’s arrival.

“I am grateful to President Boyd, Chancellor Plowman, Danny White and Vol Nation for their tremendous support,” Heupel said. “Our employees take great pride in representing the Power T and we never take that for granted. We will continue to work tirelessly to build a championship program that all Vol Nation and all VFLs can be proud of,” said Heupel.

“Most importantly, our players are the people who deserve all the credit for our resurgence on Rocky Top. For the past two years they have believed in us and put their energy into every single day with hard work, leadership, unity and consistent habits. I’m proud to be her coach,” said Heupel.

In both seasons under Heupel, Tennessee has topped its SEC-predicted preseason ranking. Heupels Vols entered the 2022 campaign unranked, but after a quick 8-0 start they rose to No College Football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer (1998), General Robert Neyland (1939, ’51) and Bowden Wyatt (1956) to lead a Tennessee team to No. 1.

Heupel became the first Vol coach in 21 years to defeat Alabama, Florida and LSU in the same season as Neyland Stadium became the epicenter of the sport with multiple ESPN College GameDay appearances and six straight sellouts. UT secured its first-ever New Year’s Six Bowl spot, defeating ACC Champion Clemson 31-14 to win its first Orange Bowl trophy since 1939.

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The Vols ended the year at number 6 in both the Associated Press and USA Today AFCA Coaches polls, their highest result since 2001. Tennessee defeated four opponents in the most recent AP Top 25, which was the second-highest total among teams in the Finals poll. The team finished with six wins over ranked teams, tying the 1998 roster for the most in program history.

For his efforts, Heupel was named the 2022 AP SEC Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award and the George Munger Award presented by Maxwell Football Club. Heupel was named Region 2 Coach of the Year by the AFCA and won the fan vote for the Bryant Coach of the Year Award.

Heupel’s teams have clearly established themselves as the nation’s attacking candidates with an offensive defense. In 2022, the Vols led the nation in scoring offense (46.1), total offense (525.5), passing efficiency (181.4), and total touchdowns (79) for the first time in school history. That came after UT was the nation’s most improved offense when it finished in the top 10 in all four of those categories in Heupel’s first year.

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The Vols have finished in the top 15 nationally for total tackles for loss and tackles for loss in each of the last two seasons for the past two seasons, including tops in the SEC in 2022 (7.2).

A year after Tennessee broke eight team records in a season, it broke 15 program marks during the 2022 campaign. Heupel’s offensive unit rewrote the annals in total points (599), points per game, total offense (6,832), total offense per game, yards per game (7.2), total touchdowns, passing touchdowns (38), rushing touchdowns (40), Completion percentage (68.7), passing efficiency, passing yards (4,239), fewest interceptions thrown (3), and first downs (330).

The Vols’ rise to national prominence under Heupel’s leadership has allowed UT to sign successive elite recruiting classes. His top 10 class of 2023 includes three of the top 50 signers in the country, according to On3.com, including the nation’s No. 1 quarterback Nico Iamaleava of Long Beach, California.

Player development was also evident in the Heupel era. Five volumes were selected for the 2022 NFL draft, representing the most for the program since 2017, and more than UT produced the previous three drafts combined. The Vols are poised to expand that number this spring.

Four Tennessee players received All-SEC first-team recognition from the league’s coaches in the fall of 2022 – wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, quarterback Hendon Hooker, offensive tackle Darnell Wright and defensive end Byron Young. The four selections were the most for the program since 2006.

Heupel mentored Hooker, who after an indelible season won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award, chosen by the coaches and the Associated Press. Hooker secured fifth place, the highest Heisman Trophy result by vol. in 25 years. Meanwhile, Hyatt became the first player in school history to receive the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top receiver. He received the prestigious honor of becoming the 13th unanimous first-team All-American in UT history and the first since College Football Hall of Famer Eric Berry in 2009.

  • OCTOBER 15: Head coach Josh Heupel of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide with a cigar at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 52-49. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel greets fans during the traditional Vol Walk prior to an NCAA college football game against Florida on Saturday, September 24, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel greets fans during the traditional Vol Walk prior to an NCAA college football game against Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel watches play on the jumbotron during the second half of an NCAA college football game against the Tennessee Martin Saturday, October 22, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 65-24. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne).
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel calls out from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Tennessee won 40-13. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel watches the action on the jumbotron during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Akron on Saturday, September 17, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel reviews his notes as his team plays Pittsburgh in the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 10, 2022 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
  • Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel speaks with linebacker Jeremy Banks (33) after he was called out for unnecessary harshness in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh Saturday, September 11, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn (AP Photo/ Wade Payne)

Off the field, the Vols under Heupel have thrived together with 34 SEC Academic Honor Roll selections in Fall 2021 and three Academic All-America honors over the past two seasons. In 2021, Tennessee produced multiple College Sports Communicators (CSC) Academic All-Americans for the first time in the same season when Paxton Brooks and Matthew Butler received first-team and second-team honors, respectively. Brooks repeated the honor in 2022.

The Vols’ success on the field also correlated in the classroom, as the football program’s Fall 2022 GPA was the highest on record, with 13 student-athletes from the Dean’s List taking the lead.

Heupel emphasized the holistic development of the student athlete and strengthened the player development of the team. The group focuses on year-round programs designed to prepare Vols for personal, academic, and leadership success, as well as community engagement efforts.

A native of Aberdeen, South Dakota, Heupel owns an outstanding overall record of 46-16 (.742) and a conference mark of 30-11 (.732) in five seasons as head coach. His 46 wins since 2018 rank in the top 8 nationally, and he is one of only four active FBS head coaches to lead multiple programs related to the New Year’s Six Bowl appearances during the CFP era. His teams have earned bowl finishes in all five seasons and finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring and total attack.

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