Here’s 9 million reasons why Josh Heupel left UCF for Tennessee

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Running off at the typewriter …

For any UCF fan who is still wondering why football coach Josh Heupel left two seasons ago to follow athletic director Danny White to Tennessee, I’ve got 9 million reasons why.

As in the $9 million annual salary Heupel is now making after he was rewarded with a contract extension earlier this week. That’s about four times what Heupel was making at UCF.

Actually, I think most UCF fans understood why Heupel left, but what I never understood was the many Knights fans who didn’t really appreciate Heupel while he was in Orlando.

Heupel took over in 2018 after Scott Frost had led the team to an undefeated season the previous year with a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. With expectations sky-high, all Heupel did the following season was lead the Knights to another undefeated regular season and probably would have beaten LSU in the Fiesta Bowl if quarterback McKenzie Milton hadn’t suffered that horrific knee injury against USF in the last game of the regular season.

Heupel went 28-8 at UCF, and his offenses were ranked fifth, second and second in the country.

Yeah, Bianchi, but what about his defenses? They stunk!!!

I never blamed Heupel for UCF’s defense; If you want to blame anyone, blame White, who actually agreed in principle to hire Randy Shannon as the defensive coordinator before Heupel was even hired as the head coach. In short, Heupel and Shannon were an arranged marriage. And it’s certainly no secret that there was a lot of friction between Heupel and Shannon, whose defenses ranked 95, 32 and 123 during his three years under Heupel.

While I don’t think any college football coach should be making $9 million a year, Heupel certainly has earned it in today’s insane marketplace. Amazingly, he is still only ranked fifth in the SEC in annual salary behind Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher and Brian Kelly.

Heupel took over a miserable program at Tennessee and in just his second season guided the Vols to an 11-2 record this year and in the hunt for a College Football Playoff bid. The year before he arrived, the Vols posted their worst record (3-7) in more than 100 years and former coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired for a plethora of alleged NCAA recruiting violations. Tennessee’s pathetic offense was ranked 102nd in the country.

Heupel, as he’s done at every stop, immediately turned the Vols into an offensive juggernaut. Two years ago, Heupel’s Vols ranked No. 9 in the nation in total offense and last season ranked No. 1 in just about every offensive category.

Said White earlier this week when announcing Heupel’s contract extension: “It’s been fun to crash the party, but as Josh said after our Orange Bowl triumph [over Clemson], the best is yet to come.”

At $9 million a year, I would hope so.

Short stuff: Mikey likes: Bengals over Chiefs by 1 (bad ankle), Eagles over 49ers by 5, LeBron over Kareem by next week. … Actual tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about Brett Maher, the Dallas kicker who missed four extra points in a playoff win over Tampa Bay and had another one blocked in last week’s loss to San Francisco: “I swear, I can kick as good as the Dallas Cowboys kicker.” Abbott has been paralyzed from the waist down since 1984. … The Guinness Book of World Records last week confirmed that Spike, a 23-year-old chihuahua in Ohio, is the oldest dog in the world. Cracked David Whitley of the Gainesville Sun: “After checking birth records, Guinness World Records has rescinded its recognition of Spike and announced the world’s oldest dog is actually Stetson Bennett IV.” … After getting into a heated courtside verbal altercation with Memphis Grizzlies players a few days ago, Fox Sports personality Shannon Sharpe should change the name of the show he is on with Skip Bayless from Undisputed to Unprofessional.… By the way, that reminds me of a joke: What’s the difference between the Hindenburg and Skip Bayless? One is zeppelin and the other is a flaming gas bag. …

Did you see where the controversial LIV Golf League is going to make a stop in the Orlando area at the end of March? The tournament will be at Orange County National, which you should have no trouble finding. You won’t need your GPS; just follow the Saudi money trail. … I just saw where the Justice Department has filed an antitrust suit against Google because of the tech giant’s domination of the digital advertising market. The government alleges that Google’s master plan to retain its monopoly on online ads has been to “neutralize or dominate” rivals by making it difficult for them to acquire advertisers. Hey, that sounds like what Kirby Smart does on the recruiting trail! Maybe Billy Napier should file an antitrust suit. … Headline at TheOnion.com: “Aaron Rodgers To Decide Future By Consulting With Coven Of Trusted Witches.” …

I saw where Triangle of Sadness got nominated for an Academy Award. I haven’t seen it, but I’m thinking it’s a documentary about the weekly meetings last season between USF’s offensive, defensive and special-teams coordinators. … I’m also intrigued by another movie that got nominated for an Academy Award — Everything Everywhere All at Once. Is this the one about opposing defensive coordinators trying to describe what it’s like trying to stop Heupel’s fastbreak offense at UT? … Speaking of Academy Award-winning performances, did you hear Tom Brady on his own podcast earlier this week responding to Jim Gray lobbing him a softball question about his future? Brady answered saltily, “Jim, if I knew what I was gonna f—ing do, I’d already [have] f—ing done it. I’m taking it a day at a time.” If you don’t think that exchange was scripted, I’ve got a surf shop in Topeka I’ll sell you. … Welcome back, Jonathan Isaac, you were missed more than you know. … I’m not saying it’s been a long time since Isaac suited up for the Magic, but didn’t he last play during the Scott Skiles era? No, not the Scott Skiles coaching era; the Scott Skiles playing era! … If you’re scoring at home, the Magic are 5-1 this season against teams that were in the NBA Finals last year.

Last word: With Thursday being Wayne Gretzky’s 62nd birthday, let us all remember and live by these famous words of The Great One: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and HD 101.1-2

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