KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With Oklahoma in search of a new football coach following the departure of Lincoln Riley, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel has poured cold water on rumors linking him to a return to the university where he spent several years as both a player and coach.

In an interview with 99.1 The Sports Animal on Tuesday morning, Heupel spoke with former Vols QB Erik Ainge on his show about the Oklahoma job.

When asked about the opening at Oklahoma, this is what Heupel had to say:

“As you build a successful program with your staff and players, your name has an opportunity to come up for different openings. For myself and my family we absolutely love Knoxville and we came to Tennessee because of the power of the T, and believed in the power of the fanbase. The opportunity to build something extremely special, it’s a program that’s top ten in the history of college football in wins and first round draft picks.

“We love being in Knoxville, that’s home for us. I love being in the building with our staff and our players. I know I feel stronger today than I did ten months ago when I first took the job about what we’re going to be able to do and how quickly we’re going to be able to get there. I know we’re building a championship caliber football team and program, and I’m excited to continue on that venture with our current players and staff.”

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel

Ainge then asked Heupel specifically if he’s staying at Tennessee, he responded with, “We absolutely love Tennessee and believe in what we’re going to be building here. I can’t be happier and more excited about what we’re going to be able to do next year and in the coming years.”

Now, he’s focused on who they’re going to play in their bowl game and recruiting for the future at Tennessee. Bowl games will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 5 after conference championship games are wrapped up the day before.

Heupel quarterbacked the Sooners to the 2001 National Championship and was named a Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2000. He spent eight years on the coaching staff from 2006 to 2014 as a quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.

He left South Florida and signed a six year, $24 million contract with Tennessee earlier this year.

Tennessee is no stranger to the chaos of a coaching search, especially in the past decade or so — with the amount of change and shocking hires that’s come in the past week, Vols fans wanted to hold on tight to their new coach.

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