You can count Paul Finebaum among the many Tennessee alums taking a wait and see approach when it comes to the new head coach on Rocky Top.

While there is a lot to like about the Josh Heupel hire, for one, he runs one of the more explosive and uptempo offenses in all of college football and has been very successful implementing that offense as a head coach at UCF and as an offensive coordinator in the SEC at Missouri, but he certainly wasn’t the big-name hire many were hoping for following the end of the Jeremy Pruitt era in Knoxville.

The way Paul Finebaum views the hiring of Heupel at Tennessee, it’s largely uninspiring.

“Heupel is a good coach, but he is not going to inspire many people. I think what it shows more than anything else is Tennessee is not a very good job,” Finebaum said to SDS’s Connor O’Gara on the latest Saturday Down South Podcast. “You can’t go out and hire the best coaches at Tennessee because not only has the program been in a free fall, but it is facing punishing NCAA sanctions and I think for that reason, most people wanted to stay away.”

One name many fans wanted the Vols to hire was Coastal Carolina coach, Jamey Chadwell.

According to Finebaum, Tennessee did explore that option but it doesn’t sound like AD Danny White was very impressed with Chadwell during the search for a new leader on Rocky Top.

“I’m told they did some conversations with Jamey Chadwell, who was everyone’s favorite, and they came away underwhelmed,” Finebaum offered up on the podcast.

So where does the hire of Heupel leave Tennessee?

The ESPN and SEC Network host doesn’t see Tennessee being very competitive in the years to come following this move.

“I think Tennessee is heading toward a very bad and dark period, of which, it has to be content — even though it won’t be — to win 6 or 7 games,” Finebaum continued. “It’s not impossible to go from that level to great success, but I don’t see it in the near future.

“I’m usually not one to be overly pessimistic because I’ve seen a lot, as you have. I don’t have a good feeling about this program right now. I think Josh Heupel is indicative of that. If it wins 8 or 9 games in the next 2 or 3 years, that would be considered fantastic. But I think the program has to lower its sights.

“It’s no longer relevant. Tennessee is no longer an important program in the SEC. It has fallen that far behind, and I say that as a Tennessee graduate and as someone who remembers Tennessee being on a similar plateau as Alabama. It wasn’t that long ago, but it seems like forever.”

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Tennessee sports betting officially launched on November 1, 2020. Tennessee was the first SEC state to legalize sports betting.