Vols' Heupel lands extension, raise to $9M/year

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Tennesee football coach Josh Heupel has landed a contract extension through 2029 which pushes his annual salary to $9 million per season, the school announced on Tuesday.

Vols' Josh Heupel lands extension, raise to $9M per year 2:52 PM ET Chris LowESPN Senior Writer Close College football reporter Joined ESPN.com in 2007 Graduate of the University of Tennessee KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- With Tennessee coming off its best season in more than two decades, coach Josh Heupel has been rewarded with a contract extension that will pay him $9 million per year. The raise of $4 million will take Heupel to fourth among SEC head football coaches. The only four higher are Alabama's Nick Saban, Georgia's Kirby Smart, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher and LSU's Brian Kelly. Heupel's initial contract paid him $4 million annually and he was bumped to $5 million last year. According to details of Heupel's new contract released by the university, his buyout would be 100 percent of what he was owed if he were terminated without cause prior to Dec. 15, 2025. The buyout would drop to 75 percent if he were fired between Dec. 15, 2025 and Dec. 14, 2027. The buyout would decrease to 50 percent on Dec. 15, 2027. Editor's Picks Tennessee promotes QB coach Halzle to OC 19d Pete Thamel 2 Related Heupel's incentives package was also increased. He would earn $100,000 for making a bowl game and all the way up to $1 million for winning the national championship. Other incentives include $50,000 for finishing in the Top 25, $100,000 for finishing in the Top 10 and $150,000 for finishing in the Top 5 as well as additional money for playing in the SEC championship game, winning coach of the year honors and his team reaching certain academic progress rates. Heupel will also receive increased private jet usage. "The results over Josh's first two years speak for themselves," Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement. "He and his staff have energized both our football program and our fan base 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 (over Clemson), the best is yet to come." In two seasons at Tennessee, Heupel is 18-8 overall. The Vols were 11-2 this past season and 7-6 during his first season. Prior to his arrival, Tennessee had suffered through losing seasons in three of the previous four years. Tennessee's No. 6 finish in the final AP poll last season was its highest since 2001. That's after the Vols started the season unranked. Even more importantly, Tennessee snapped a 15-game losing streak against Alabama a year ago with a thrilling 52-49 victory over the Crimson Tide that set off a wild celebration at Neyland Stadium. The Vols also beat Florida 38-33 at home, only their second victory over the Gators in the last 18 meetings. For perspective, coming into last season, Tennessee was just 4-38 against its chief three rivals - Alabama, Florida and Georgia - going back to Phillip Fulmer's final season in 2008. Heupel said in a statement: "Our staff takes great pride in representing the Power T, and it's something we never take for granted. We will continue to work tirelessly to build a championship program that all of Vol Nation and all VFLs can be proud of. Most importantly, our players are the people who deserve all of the credit for our resurgence on Rocky Top." The Vols broke 15 single-season records in 2022 and led the country in scoring offense (46.1 points), total offense (525.5 yards), passing efficiency (181.4) and total touchdowns (79) for the first time in school history. They defeated six nationally ranked teams, tying the 1998 national championship team for the most in program history. Tennessee's No. 1 ranking in the initial College Football Playoff rankings last season was its first in school history. The Vols hosted ESPN's College GameDay twice last season and sold out six straight games at home. Their signing class for the 2023 season is ranked 15th nationally by ESPN, and they also brought in several highly regarded transfers at key positions.