On the surface, it seems obvious that Tennessee football could lose Josh Heupel to the Oklahoma Sooners as the replacement for Lincoln Riley, who just took over as the USC Trojans head coach. After all, Heupel went 7-5 his first year on Rocky Top, which is National Coach of the Year worthy, and he won a national title as OU’s quarterback in 2000.
Add in the fact that the Vols lost Lane Kiffin to USC 12 years ago after Kiffin spent just one year as UT’s head coach, and fans in Big Orange Country have every right to be in a panic. There’s a growing consensus that the Vols just can’t have nice things, and it’s hard to argue that point.
However, Vol fans don’t need to worry. The situation is different this time than it was under Kiffin in many ways, and Heupel and OU both have their own reasons for Rocky Top not losing its first-year head coach. Let’s look at all the factors coming into play here. These are the five reasons Tennessee football won’t lose Heupel to OU.
5. Josh Heupel has more administrative support at Tennessee.
Okay, on this front, there is no difference between Heupel and Kiffin. Mike Hamilton made the gutsy move to fire Phillip Fulmer, and he didn’t just hire Kiffin for Kiffin. He hired him while also shelling out a ton of money for an elite staff, which was the major selling point, so Hamilton was heavily invested in Kiffin.
Still, Danny White is heavily invested in Heupel. He was hired as UT athletic director before a football coach was named, and Heupel is the guy he brought with him from the UCF Knights, where he also hired Heupel. White took a PR hit in Knoxville, Tenn. initially by hiring Heupel. They are tied together.
Meanwhile, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione has a lot more cache than White, having been at his school since 1998. Heupel has to know he won’t get the same backing. Castiglione has the credibility to give him a short leash and cut bait if things don’t work out. White doesn’t have that same luxury with Tennessee football.