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Tennessee Vols coach Josh Heupel should take a hard stand on money

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In the face of growing fanaticism and an increasing assistant coaching budget on the horizon, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel should take a pay cut.

No, it really doesn’t matter what Heupel is worth. That argument went out the door nearly 50 years ago when coaches began being paid like foreign heads of state. The idea behind Heupel taking a pay cut is all about the optics and the narrative has to be driven by him. First, he doesn’t deserve a raise that he’ll almost assuredly get. After all, no one is planning a parade after Heupel’s Vols finished 9-4 with an offense that sputtered despite Heupel’s offensive prowess.

While Tennessee’s fan base has lowered its expectations after a decade-long drought of football success, it shouldn’t lower to the point in which an 8-4 regular season is met with a raise. That should be average, not garner accolades – or is this case more money. Besides, Heupel has somewhere that money needs to go.

Heupel had to pay for two new assistant coaches that will surely expect a raise from their former positions. And they didn’t do a thing to lead the Vols to just eight wins in the regular season last year.

There used to be a valid argument that claimed if a coach was even held in semi-high regard that he should be under contract for five years. That made sense, but also made agents rich. With the transfer portal, why does a coach need to promise a prospect he’ll be there as a leader for five years? For once, coaches can tell the truth instead of lying for decades. Now the tables are turned. The prospect is actually more likely to not live out his national letter of intent than the coach is to fly the coop.

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Heupel could preach all the above from the mountain top, take a pay cut and be praised. That’s not usually how things work out and unless he’d like to get used to hiring assistant coaches, Heupel needs to make sure they’re taken care of before anyone else. And two others.

Other than Heupel, Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner and defensive coordinator Tim Banks are the most important coaches on the staff and soon – very soon – they’ll be incredibly underpaid compared to the players they’re supposed to help raise into adulthood.

Former Alabama coach Nick Saban was famous for creating a coaching rehabilitation center. What if Heupel could open his pool of candidates if he had some money, his own, to dole out?

Now, no one is suggesting that Heupel is even remotely on the hot seat nor that Tennessee shouldn’t keep his pay in line with others in the SEC and college football. However, if Heupel made such a bold move, his popularity would like 2022.

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