Danny White certainly had a unique journey to land Josh Heupel as Tennessee’s new coach.

The Tennessee athletics director recalled the hiring process as he brought Heupel with him from Central Florida, and kept in mind what a move like that would do to the UCF program. White recalled the hiring during a conversation with Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski on Sirius XM.

“You know, it was actually painfully hard once I realized that was the right decision because I knew I was creating more transition for the team back at UCF,” White said. “That part was really hard. I didn’t take this job planning to do that.”

White shared his process of identifying leadership on the football team to learn what kind of coach the program needs. Turns out, Heupel fit the bill.

“It just became — one of the things I always do in a coaching search is I talk to the players. I want to know from their perspective what is going on,” White said. “I learned a lot doing that, from them. I don’t talk to the whole team. I have the team vote on representatives, and I met with nine kids off the football team here. I use that as I’m going through the interview process and vetting. They’re not all interviews. A lot of it is just casual conversations just trying to figure out the market and what the opportunities are. I learned from each of those conversations too.”

Multiple reports at the time suggested several well-known coaches were in the mix for White and Tennessee, including Penn State’s James Franklin, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, SMU’s Sonny Dykes, Minnesota’s PJ Fleck and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.

“Towards the end of it, in my mind, Josh wasn’t even on the list. Emotionally and psychologically, I couldn’t even get myself to think about doing that, but then I’m comparing the candidates and the options,” White said. “None of them were as good a fit for what this place needs right now as Josh Heupel. A light bulb went off, and it was a light bulb that was exciting for a minute but then, ‘Oh no, how do I do this?’”

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Tennessee online sports betting officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.