Josh Heupel is excited for the return of the Florida-Tennessee rivalry to the level it enjoyed years ago, particularly in the 1990s.

“Everybody came to Tennessee to play in these types of games. That’s why you want to be here. That’s why there’s a huge stadium a block away from where I’m sitting right now,” Heupel said on the SEC coaches media teleconference on Wednesday. “… Everyone understands this is a big rivalry game. … It’s one our players care about, too. … A year ago, this game down there in Gainesville was a turning point in the buy-in of the process for our players.”

Part of how Tennessee has gotten to this level is because of staff continuity, Heupel said, and how it all plays together with families, culture, facilities and simply where Knoxville is located.

“The culture inside of the building is a huge part of being able to retain people,” he said. “… When you enjoy the people you’re working with, from the energy and relationships with the coaches and the wives and enjoying each other and the success we’ve had on the field building something and the players and their attitudes and demeanors — the environment and culture were a huge part of being able to keep people. … You just don’t want people leaving for lateral moves. … You can start to attribute it to all those factors. The last piece, for me, and I didn’t realize this until I got here — the facilities, the culture … this really is a great place to live.”

The Vols will get all the attention associated with ESPN’s “College GameDay” this week when the popular pregame show brings its coverage to campus. Heupel is familiar with the development from his days as a player at Oklahoma.

“My last year there we had GameDay at least twice. … To me, it just means you’re playing in big games,” he said. “I’m not sure you realize it during the course of the week. You kinda feel it on Friday as the energy is heightened around campus. … Those are great memories for me and my teammates back then. … You’ve done things to build it where GameDay is going to be here and you’re in the center of the college football world for the morning. … Enjoy that that’s going to be taking place.”

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Sports betting in Tennessee 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.