Tennessee didn't wait long to reward head coach Josh Heupel following a 2022 season that exceeded expectations.
The university announced Tuesday it has signed Heupel to an extension through January 2029 that will pay him $9 million annually.
Athletic director Danny White provided a statement on the deal:
"The results over Josh's first two seasons speak for themselves. He and his staff have energized both our football program and our fanbase with an aggressive brand of football, a competitive culture that creates leaders and a relentless approach to raising the bar every single day. Despite a brief period of dormancy, Tennessee never surrendered its status as a college football powerhouse. We just needed an innovative leader like Josh Heupel to reignite the spark. It's been fun to crash the party, but as Josh said after our Orange Bowl triumph, the best is yet to come."
Brent Hubbs of Volquest.com provided specifics on the new contract.
Tennessee will owe Heupel the full amount remaining if he's fired without cause before Dec. 15, 2025. His buyout falls to 75 percent of the outstanding salary between Dec. 15, 2025, and Dec. 14, 2027. The buyout figure becomes 50 percent if he's jettisoned at any point after that.
Per Hubbs, Heupel also has a bowl bonus written into the contract that will pay him as much as $1 million if the Volunteers win a national title.
Even though Tennessee only hired him two years ago, a massive pay raise was inevitable for the 44-year-old after the 2022 season.
The Vols went 11-2, capping things off with a 31-14 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Their 52-49 upset of No. 3 Alabama in October was both a cathartic moment and a sign the program is a genuine threat again in the SEC.
White's statement alluded to the run of mediocrity Tennessee endured following the Phillip Fulmer era. Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt were all tasked with returning the Volunteers to prominence and all failed.
A new contract doesn't preclude Heupel from taking another job, but poaching him would be a costly endeavor. Now he doesn't have to worry about how much Tennessee values him and the extent to which he'll be supported with the resources necessary.