Why Josh Heupel shouldn’t be required to keep Tee Martin at Tennessee
New Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel is cleaning house.
Heupel, hired as the Vols’ coach on Jan. 27, inherited seven assistants left behind by predecessor Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired on Jan. 18.
Among those, only defensive assistant Kevin Steele remains, plus strength coach A.J. Artis. Steele was hired to a two-year contract in January, less than a week before Pruitt was fired.
Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley and Jay Graham resigned to accept positions elsewhere. Heupel fired offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and assistants Chris Weinke and Joe Osovet.
And wide receivers coach Tee Martin’s two-year contract expired Sunday. Tennessee has not addressed Martin’s future, but unless he receives a new deal, Martin’s tenure at his alma mater is finished. That has rankled some Vols fans and former teammates. Martin, a beloved quarterback at Tennessee, led the Vols to a national championship during the 1998 season.
Adams, while applauding Martin’s career, says Heupel should be allowed the freedom to construct his staff however he wants and not have to reserve spots for former Vols.
Toppmeyer notes that Alabama doesn’t require Nick Saban to fill his staff with former Crimson Tide players. Saban’s priority is hiring a staff that can position Alabama for national championships, regardless of where those coaches attended school.
In 2020, Tennessee had a strong presence of former Vols in and around the program. Then-athletics director Phillip Fulmer played at UT and won a national championship here as a coach, and Martin and Graham starred for the Vols.
And Tennessee went 3-7.
Adams says the time is right for a fresh start and that rather than having a foot in the past, Tennessee needs to position itself for the future.
Toppmeyer points out that the optics of not retaining Martin are especially challenging, though, considering Martin was one of just two Tennessee football assistants who agreed to accept a pay cut that was requested by the athletic department in response to budget constraints.
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Current subscribers can click here to join Blake’s subscriber-only text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.