The No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team picked up a statement win tonight, crushing No. 15 Kansas at home 80-61. At halftime of today’s game, new Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel got his chance to address Vols fans live for the first time.
The last few weeks have been tumultuous for the Vols athletic department as a whole. Alleged recruiting violations gave the program cover to oust struggling head coach Jeremy Pruitt, after he went 3-7 in his third year as head coach with the team. The situation also led to athletic director and former head coach Phillip Fulmer’s retirement, as Tennessee brought on UCF’s Danny White to fill the role.
After a few days of searching, White called back to Orlando, and brought Heupel aboard. The reaction from the ever-passionate Vols fans online was… about what you’d expect.
He did his best to win fans over tonight though. “Vol Nation, this fan base right here is what makes this program and this university so special and so unique,” he said at halftime. “It makes Neyland Stadium one of the most intimidating home field advantages in the entire country. My family and I are so proud and honored to be a part of the Tennessee family.”
“We’ve got a great group of individuals inside our locker room,” he continued. “They’re going to come together as a team. We need to come together as a university, as a state and we’ve got to create positive energy of reaching every corner of this state.
“I cannot wait to be inside that locker room with our team, run through that T, listen to Rocky Top and go beat the heck out of the team we’re playing on the other side of the field. Our players are already hard at work. We’re going to assemble one of the best staffs in the entire country. We are going to make you, our fan base, this entire state, extremely proud to represent the orange T on their shirt. Go Big Orange!”
Josh Heupel has a serious uphill battle to succeed where Pruitt, Butch Jones, Derek Dooley, and Lane Kiffin have all largely failed in the last decade-plus. At UCF, he was able to pick right up where Scott Frost left off, inheriting an undefeated Knights team. The Tennessee football job will be much, much more difficult.
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