20 July 2024

Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel took the coaching job in Knoxville in January 2021 with the uncertainty of the severity of NCAA sanctions hanging over the program.

Two and a half years later, he called it a “huge relief” for the punishment to not include a bowl ban, saying he was “really excited” about the outcome as the NCAA Committee on Infractions released Tennessee’s punishment Friday

Just super excited,” Heupel told ESPN. “I’m just really excited for the kids.”

Tennessee’s punishment included an $8 million fine for the school, which is believed to be an NCAA record, as well as scholarship losses, a reduction in visits and limits on recruiting contacts. Former coach Jeremy Pruitt, who ran the program while the violations occurred, received a six-year show-cause order and the school is going to have to vacate some of its wins from that time.

But for a program coming off of an 11-2 season and Orange Bowl victory over Clemson, the lack of anything punitive for the current players was viewed by Heupel as a huge victory.

“You don’t know until today what it’s actually going to be,” Heupel said. “It’s hugely important that our players were protected and the future players were protected as well. I’m really excited about the outcome.”

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