UCF PRESIDENT DR. JOHN C. HITT
“Thank you, and thanks to all of you for being here. I had met Josh before this process, and I just reflected back a little on what I felt just meeting him, and that is that he is a great fit for UCF. Let me tell you a few reasons why I think that. First, you don’t have to be around Josh for very long at all to know that he is a fierce competitor who wants to win. Think about it. Our student-athletes have gotten the message – if you come to UCF, you’re going to play for championships. We’ve won three conference championships in the past five seasons. The Knights are playing in a New Year’s Day bowl for the second time in five seasons. This is a great place for competitors, for winners. Josh, I’m sure that you’re going to build that perception and reality even higher.
“Second, Josh believes in developing well-rounded student-athletes. That’s a perfect fit with UCF. We’re the number one public university in the nation with student-athlete academic success. Over the past four years, in fact, it has the best student-athlete graduation success rate among the 12 teams competing in New Year’s Six bowl games. Our 92 percent Graduation Success Rate for football student-athletes tops Miami’s 88 percent and Clemson’s 85 percent. UCF also leads the 12 teams in graduation rates for African-American football student-athletes with a 93 percent graduation success rate.
“Finally, Josh likes to score; he likes see that scoreboard light up. Who in this room doesn’t? His team this year scored more than 39 points a game and 10th best in college football. The Knights are number one in scoring. I think our fans will enjoy watching the scoreboard light up again next season. Martha and I will. Josh, welcome to UCF. We’re so excited to have you, Dawn, Hannah and Jace as part of the UCF family. Finally, congratulations to Danny White for another outstanding hire. Whether it’s football, basketball, tennis, or baseball, Danny knows how to find great coaches. Danny, on behalf of Knight Nation, we’re glad you’re on our team.”
UCF VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS DANNY WHITE
“(I) appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve (and) appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me, Dr. Hitt. UCF is an easy place to sell; that’s why we’ve been able to hire good coaches. I’ve said it before – I’ll put our roster of head coaches up against anybody in the country, and I’ll say that again today with Josh Heupel, our head football coach.
“I think we got a winner, someone that will lead our group as the rest of our head coaches do. We want to be about the student-athlete experience for a reason – that’s our first core value: student-athlete success. We are committed to developing our young men and women as people and students, and obviously as athletes. We’re not going to shy away from our aspirations for competitive success to compete for championships. As Dr. Hitt just outlined, we’ve done a lot of that around here in football and in all of our sports.
“It’s been a very fast and furious few days, since I was last standing on this stage after our championship on Saturday. I have seen a lot of folks and talked with a lot of people, both candidates and references across the country. I think it’s important to have a strong network in college sports to really understand who a person is and what their character is before you sit down and interview with them. Everyone that we interviewed, I can vouch for and feel confident that they exude a high level of character and integrity and they’re all people that felt comfortable from a character standpoint to come and lead our football program. From that point, I think that’s where interviews matter. I’ve said that before, and Josh absolutely killed the interview.
“You could see what Dr. Hitt had mentioned – his competitiveness, his fire, his passion for the game, and obviously, his knowledge. I think he’s of the brightest offensive minds in the game and I’m pretty sure he’s got a good plan to figure out the defensive side as well.
“We started this process, as I mentioned, on Saturday with our players. We met after I left the postgame presser. I went and visited with the team representatives and heard from them on what they’re looking for, attributes they’re looking for as a head coach. I shared with them those attributes, when I introduced Josh. But just to recap a little bit, they really wanted to continue the family atmosphere that’s been built around here. A player’s coach, someone that cares about them and has a relationship with them, not only on the field, but off the field, without us even asking questions about it.
“Josh went in depth about his philosophy on that. Building a family atmosphere and how much you’re genuinely caring and building genuine relationships with our student-athletes is critical to success, so I think we check that box.
“They talked about offense. They use words like – I’m a basketball guy – but they use words like RPO [run-pass-option] or offensive eye candy and fast tempo. I think we got that with this guy. Everywhere he’s been, they put up a lot of numbers, both as a coach and a player. (Missouri was) number one in the SEC in total offense just this past year. Obviously, there are some stout defenses in that conference.
“And then, finally defense. They talked about defensive style that we certainly felt fit with what Coach Heupel wants to do with our program.
“We’re really excited about the next leader of our football program, who has been to all levels of football experience as a player and coach. I think that gives us great perspective for the next chapter.
“We have two things going on here. We have the 2017 season, which isn’t over yet, and those student-athletes and coaches are committed to competing against a great Auburn team in the Peach Bowl. I feel fortunate to now finally be able to start thinking about the Peach Bowl – thanks to our staff that’s been handling all the details of that – and we have that 2018 in the future.
“Josh and I, in our conversations, talked about a vision for UCF and I’ve talked about it a bunch here. I think I have the best job in America. I think this place is an absolute gold mine. The sky’s the limit for where we can take UCF Athletics and I know Josh sees the same thing in this football program. I couldn’t be more proud to have him here and certainly to have his level of commitment into the future as we both continue to build our football program. With that, it’s my honor to introduce your new head football coach Josh Heupel.”
UCF HEAD COACH JOSH HEUPEL
“This is an honor to be here and to be the UCF head coach. It’s a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I was the son of a coach. From the time I was five years old, I was riding in the car at five-thirty in the morning with him going to two-a-days and sitting in defensive meetings. I was in the linebacker and defensive back meetings usually, but just an absolute honor and fulfillment of a lifelong dream to be here. It’s really a fulfillment of a dream of being able to be the head football coach at a university where you have a chance to compete for championships and play on the biggest stages year in and year out. That’s what I’ve found here at UCF. I’d like to thank President Hitt, Provost Whitaker and Danny for affording me this opportunity. I’m truly privileged, and I’m going to make the most of this opportunity, and make you and this state very proud of the product that we put out there on the football field. I’d like to thank my wife, Dawn, who is here today – love of my life – and my two kids: Hannah who’s nine and my little guy Jace who is seven years old. He’s already brought in the UCF cap here this afternoon and he’s ready for the Black and Gold.
“I’d also like to take a minute just to thank all of the players and the coaches that I’ve worked with through the years. I appreciate all the hard work and energy that you put into fulfilling and going after our goals. We were together. Ultimately, you’ve led me to this position, so I will forever be grateful and indebted to you guys as well. When I started looking at this job here, there were things that every coach across America could see. This is the largest university in a great state. It’s in the fastest growing city in America, and it’s the most fertile recruiting territory in the entire country. All those things are reasons that everybody in America wants to be the head coach here at UCF.
“What I did not know that I just found out through the process is that the leadership at this university is harmonious, synchronized. They are about going out and creating the future, not just letting the future happen to them, creating that future here at UCF. Their vision for what they want the university to be and how athletics fits into that is an extremely special opportunity for a coach like me and for our future and current players. We’re sitting in a program that is and will be one of the elite programs in the entire country, not every other year but on a consistent, yearly basis.
“The championship season they had this past season is something special. I was able to talk to the players earlier today. I’ve been on a lot of championship football teams, and there’s a very fine margin of what separates one of those years from other years. In my opinion, Coach Frost and his staff did a tremendous job here. It comes down to the character and the relationships that are formed inside of that room. In between the coaching staff and the players and within the players, there’s something special that happened this past season.
“It’s my job as the head coach to continue to develop those relationships into continuity between the players to push this program to the next level. I look forward to the opportunity of developing those relationships with those players. College football, to me, and what type of environment I want to create here is really about a couple of things. I think it’s about having a competitive environment. I talked to the players today about when you walk through the doors being the same guy every single day. There’s going to be ups and downs in your life. There’s going to be ups and downs inside of your classroom, relationships, with your family, whatever it might be. When you walk through the glass doors, having a competitive environment that your players love being involved in. It’s going to draw the best out of them on a consistent basis and then really what it comes down to is the second point. It’s about relationships.
“I believe that your players need to understand that you love them, not just for the four years that they’re here and not just while they’re on the football field between the white lines, but it is ultimately about a relationship that lasts for the next 40 years. That’s deep and meaningful and it’s going to be something that helps propel them throughout their entire life to achieve success. At the end of the day, our coaching staff is here to develop our players and challenge our players to do things better than they’ve never done before on a consistent basis, so that our players can be champions, not just for today, not just for tomorrow, but for the rest of their life. That is the type of individual that we will have inside of a room. That’s the type of individual that we’re going to recruit to be a part of our staff.
“I think there’s three things that are critical when you play on the field and ultimately strap your shoulder pads on and buckle your chin straps. You have to outcompete your opponent. I think that’s critical. That has nothing to do with talent. It has everything to do with what you’re made up internally and how you’re going to attack the day. I think you need to play smart football and go get turnovers on the defensive side of the ball and take care of the football on the offensive side of the ball, and then you have to be physical. This is a physical game and the team that’s most physical is usually the team that’s going to win offensively.”
Heupel on what makes UCF an attractive job and the pieces that are returning next year:
“Yeah, it excites everybody. Now during the course of the season, I was unable, because of the games that we were playing, to watch a lot of the football. I caught bits and pieces; obviously you saw highlights every week on TV. There are special players coming back when you go through the roster. There’s a handful of players that are going to be graduating and playing their last game in the Peach Bowl, but for the most part, the nucleus of this team is coming back on both sides of the ball.
“When you look at the offensive side of the ball, great quarterback coming back that has put up huge numbers and has played really smart football. He’s made plays with his arms and with his legs – that’s special. If you’re going to have a championship season, you have to have a championship-caliber quarterback, and it’s always great to have that piece coming back. But you look at the skill guys that are coming back, and then up front as well, besides the tackle position. I think that’s a position of need, not knowing the guys that didn’t play this year that were backups. The skill guys are special, special in this conference and especially against whoever they’re going to go play. Those guys being on the same page and being a year further ahead in the program, I think it’s something that’s going to be critical for our success as we move down the road.”
Heupel on there being pressure about taking over a team that went 12-0 this season:
“Yeah, there’s pressure absolutely, but there’s no pressure that’s greater than what I would have already put on myself. I’ve played on big stages; I’ve played in the games; I’ve coached in them too. At the end of the day, when you walk across the white lines, it’s all the same. I’m consistent and true to who I am and how I interact with our players.
“We’re going to build this program from where it’s at and take it to higher and higher heights. I think it’s special to have the opportunity to take over a program. UCF’s currently 12-0 and has a chance to go play in a great New Year’s Day bowl game. I think there’s a lot of positives to this situation.”
Heupel on the current staff and the player’s reaction to you being the head coach:
“The current staff – we will evaluate, that is, as I get further in today, and the coming days. I have not had a chance to meet with any of the current staff.
“The reception inside the locker room was special. I think anytime where there’s a transition, there’s always uncertainty and the players are looking for what is this next coach going to be about. I was able to go through the traits and characteristics that we’re going to try to instill in them. I talked to them about the environment that we’re going to try to create when they walk through the door every single day. Ultimately I also told them this – those are words; obviously actions speak louder than words. But I promised them that as we move forward they’re going to understand what I’m saying is going to be truthful, and hopefully, I’ll gain their trust as we move through this process.”
On making his mark at UCF:
“I worked under Coach Odom at the University of Missouri. He did a great job of leading our program. He gave me leeway to lead our men on the offensive side of the ball, to recruit and develop those players, to implement game plans and practice plans. I don’t feel like it’s my first time going through it. Instead of dealing with half of the ball, I have to deal with the entire program. There are going to be some new experiences that I haven’t had contact with, and there are decisions that have to be made. I feel fully confident in what I’ve done and where I’m going to do it, and how I’m going to approach those situations that will overcome those obstacles and make those decisions that are going to lead this program in the right direction.”
On getting his first head coaching job:
“It’s been a lifelong journey and dream. I told everyone in the room when I was interviewing that I got a degree in business marketing as a backup plan. From the time I’ve been little, I’ve always wanted to be a football coach. I love the game. I love the mental strategy, the X’s and O’s of it, but more than anything, I love the relationships that you form inside of the game. Football is the greatest teaching platform for life, in my opinion, because there are so many ups and downs. It’s the ultimate team game. You know 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defensive and 11 guys on special teams that all have to be synchronized and harmonious on the same page. I love it.”
On his family background leading to this position:
“My mom and dad are only 62 and 63 right now. They still travel to every ball game. They’re still in it. My dad is going to be on the sidelines at every game, and he’ll probably give me a laundry list of things that he would like to be a little bit different after the game. That’s what he’s been doing so far, so I don’t expect that to change.
It’s the culmination of a lifelong journey. I meant what I said, and that I didn’t just want to be a head coach anywhere. I wanted to be somewhere where you can chase and go after championships on a consistent basis. I think that’s what’s so unique about this place – it’s such a young program. It sits in such a fertile area. The vision of the university and the administration gives this place an opportunity to be a championship-caliber program, year in and year out. It’s something that I’m really excited about. I really truly believe this is one of, if not the most, elite jobs in America.”
On picking Randy Shannon as defensive coordinator:
“On the defensive side of the ball, Randy Shannon will be our defensive coordinator. I’m excited about having him as part of our staff. When I was first contacted about this opportunity, interviewing for the job, you immediately start to go through guys that maybe you want to have on staff. One of the most critical hires, to me, was knowing who’s going to be on the other side of the ball.
“I’ve competed against Randy, coached against them a couple of times. When I was at Oklahoma he came out and visited us, and I got a chance to know him a little bit better. When I was able to talk with him a little bit and make sure that our vision for what we want out of a program is synchronized, I think it was a no brainer hire because he loves kids. He’s a great teacher. He’s going to run a 3-4 scheme that has the ability to move into a four man front. He believes and creates negative plays. It’s going to be multiple, and he’s got a great rich history here in Florida. He has the ability to recruit the entire state, and ultimately the lifeblood of our program.”
Heupel on the 15 practices before the Peach Bowl and where he will be on New Year’s Day:
“New Year’s Day, I’ll probably be upstairs watching the ballgame in the stadium. I think it is unique. It’s a great opportunity that you get, an opportunity to go evaluate players and really see who’s here inside of the program, who’s coming back, and maybe some needs that you need to still fulfill in recruiting.
“I think those practices and our ability to really interact with our players and really judge what we have here is critical for us as far as how we finish recruiting through January and February signing day and give us a kick start into developing the relationships that I was talking about earlier with our players. That ultimately is going to make the transition into January when we start the 2018 season a heck of a lot easier.”
Heupel on when the rest of the staff will be announced and when he will start on the recruiting trail:
“Yeah, recruiting is going to take place as soon as I can get out of here. Obviously, we named Randy [Shannon] – that’s critical for me. Over the next coming days, you’ll see more hires that are going to be able to be made.”
Heupel on the type of offense that will be showcased:
“If you watched the last couple of years, we’re a no huddle fast-paced offense as well. I think that’s the style that they want. That’s the style that’s true to me. That’s how I want to play. I think it’s an exciting brand of football, but I also think you dictate to the defense what’s going to happen instead of being reactionary. I think that’s critical. That’s also why we want an aggressive style of football on the defensive side of the ball as well. I met with some of the players today, and I believe in this: there’s a lot of ways to play a fast, up-tempo offense. At the end of the day, the 11 guys that are going to compete at a championship level are the 11 guys that need to be out there on the football field. That’s tight ends, H-backs, running backs and wide receivers. You fit what you do to your personnel. I don’t have a set card of plays and this is all we’re going to do offensively; that’s not how I operate. At the end of the day, it’s about taking the talent that we have that’s going to play at a championship level, and putting an offense together within the schemes that we have to put those guys in a position to be successful and go chase a championship.”
Heupel on the American Athletic Conference:
“The American is a great football conference that I’ve gotten a chance to watch over the last couple of years. With some crossover games, I know some SEC opponents that maybe has played an (American Athletic Conference) member. I think it’s an exciting brand of football, with creative and innovative guys on the offensive side of the ball. You’ve got aggressive defenses that have great skilled players. I think it’s one of the premier leagues in the country, and I think it’s continuing to get better as well.”
White on what Coach Heupel checked off in the interview process:
“I’m lucky to work at UCF, so I just kind of pick out a bunch of great coaches that all want to be here. It’s pretty easy. As I mentioned before, it’s about character; it’s about integrity. Getting the right people to lead our student-athletes; it starts with the head coach.
“If you’re going to have a high-character program that’s going to assemble a high-character coaching staff and are going to recruit high-character kids that are in it for the right reasons, it’s got to start with the head coach. That’s the most important quality in all of our coaching searches.
“I think we have a unique brand of football that we’ve created here over the last couple of years. As we got more specific about what we’re looking for, what I learned from the team, what they were looking for, we certainly gravitated towards what Josh just outlined in terms of the offense and just the aggressive nature of playing the game at a fast pace. Those were probably the two biggest factors. I’ve done a ton of research. I mentioned that I spent the last three days on the phone nonstop interviewing candidates, just getting to know our folks, and to a certain degree, it probably comes down to a gut feeling. You could see Josh’s fire and passion. I mentioned earlier how much he cares about the game that kind of comes out in an interview.
“I think that ultimately, it’s not just me. Others in the room felt very confident about the great thing we’ve got going here. We’re extremely confident that Josh Heuple can continue that momentum.”
White on what Coach Heuple did to impress him:
“I would say after the interview with Josh that I had a really good feeling right away. I don’t want to make emotional decisions. I think these are really big decisions. Hopefully, this is really a very long-term decision. I was so excited about it after the interview and then took a little bit of time to make sure that we were making an intellectual decision. A lot of that also goes into the research and the prep work going into the interviews. It didn’t take long to realize that we had our guy.”
Heupel on uniforms and the partnership with Nike:
“Ultimately the partnership with Nike, that’s going to come from our administration, but I think that’s the great thing about this place and where it’s at and where it’s going. You can give your student-athletes absolutely everything that they need to be successful. You can give them things that go above and beyond what other places are going to do structurally by giving them a sense of pride in the program. You’re talking about gear, right? But all those things – different uniforms, an exciting brand of football and also having an exciting branding from the marketing department – all those things play into the experience that your student-athletes have. I think that’s what’s great about this place at its current state. It’s got a great product to sell in your student-athletes that are going to come here and have everything that they possibly need to be successful on and off the field.”
Heupel on being able to watch UCF during the season and his impression of the offense:
“Well, I was able to catch just glimpses of them. It might have been a series or even just a couple of plays or highlights at the end of the day. I think they were known across the country for what they were doing on the field. Offensively, they lit the scoreboard up – number one in the country on offense. Obviously Missouri was not that. But we’re going to shoot for number one again next year.”
Heupel on if UCF should be in the College Football Playoff:
“I have no idea, but I think at the end of the day they probably should have gotten in and should’ve been in the final four.”
Heuple on having a Heiman Trophy contender in McKenzie Milton:
“What I’ve seen, what he’s been able to do as far as numbers – and again, I haven’t seen the full body of work – he’s a special player. Heisman Trophy candidacies and ultimately sitting in New York City, some of those things are out of your control. I think if a player just focuses on that, then they’re going to fall short of where they want to be. But if he is able to lead his team the way he did this past year and put up similar numbers. He’s certainly one of the elite players in America. There’s no doubt about that.”