When Tennessee hired Danny White as its athletic director, he admitted one of the biggest reasons he found the job appealing was the chance to hire a football coach. His search lasted five days and ended with Josh Heupel. White may have been turned down by many or a few, but he ended up choosing the guy he hired at UCF and gave him a six-year contract paying $4 million a season.
The job to rebuild Tennessee may take years with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the program as an NCAA investigation is on the horizon. But as the White-Heupel era begins in Knoxville, UCF begins to find their next era with the hiring of a new AD and a football coach.
Message boards are buzzing and social media is trending and text messages are flying. Who will UCF look at? Can they land a big name? What will they pay?
Let me do this first; yes it was click bait to write that headline. I am not going to tell you names of people I spoke with or text that all inquired about the job about why they want it or who they need to contact when they will make the hire.
What I will do is share who they are without naming names, what they said or want to know.
I can tell why I think the UCF is attractive but we all know I am biased for obvious reasons. So let's do it this way. These are conversations I had either directly with the person or with someone connected to that person. Take it as you wish.
FORMER COLLEGE COACH: "What people don't realize is that the UCF is better than at least half the P5 jobs. I am not kidding. Because at UCF, you can win 10, 11, 12 games and compete for a conference title and major bowl every year. Fans forget that very few P5 schools have a real chance to win 9 let alone 10 games and most don't ever get to play in a major bowl. And while the pay may be slightly below some P5 jobs, what they paid Josh is very competitive with most P5s. And if you recruit the state well, you should compete in that league every year and the American champ usually gets that major bowl."
I asked this person if they saw UCF as a stepping stone to come for a few seasons and then get that magical season and leave for a P5?
"That's a fair question and would be unfair to say you'd never think about leaving. But the school has shown a willingness to pay a fair salary and pay assistants a competitive salary so if you win they would likely make it tough to jump since the pay would not be far off."
Then the text message came from someone connected to a sitting coordinator at P5 program:
COORDINATOR: "I'd run to Orlando. What an opportunity. The facilities are better than many places I have worked at. I could get staff on the ground in a week and that roster has lots of talent.There is so much talent within a one hour drive it's insane. Frost and Heupel built a brand that you can sell to recruits and style kids want to be a part of. I know they lost a few games but that program has that "it" factor. You want others in your league to circle your game and they got that. They pack their stadium and the weather and everything else makes it a home run. I talked with an assistant who knows guys that have worked there and all said a great place to live and their families love it"
Then the phone call from the friend of an assistant coach:
ASSISTANT COACH: "Everyone wants that job. The campus is amazing. The facilities are good. It's easy to get recruits on campus. The enrollment never stops growing. They play a style that appeals to everyone at the high school level and have some great high school programs and coaches in the area. It's the best league outside the P5 but you can be inside the top 25 every season. Having coached in the stadium and seen that place filled, it's an incredible atmosphere. I'd love to get on the list because it's such a good job."
And finally, I will just call him the mystery coach. When his friend called, I was surprised to hear what he had to say:
MYSTERY COACH: He'd be very interested. He hadn't given it much thought until we were talking about what's happened there in recent years and then we got to talking and suddenly he kept asking questions about what they have been paying, recruiting budgets and then he asked me to call a few coaches we know and they starting telling him how great a job it is and they would love to be part of his staff he wanted to pursue it and before you knew it, he got excited about what UCF has to offer."
Many will want the UCF job. The question is who does UCF want and who will be part of the search and when a new coach will be in place.
My guess is 2-3 weeks for UCF to settle on an athletic director and then 1-2 weeks to choose its new football coach. What a month ahead in east Orlando.
Final thought: The first product to have a barcode was Wrigley's Gum.
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