Tennessee employed Kevin Steele for 51 days after signing him to a $900K contract

Nick Bromberg
·2 min read

Kevin Steele is no longer a member of Tennessee's coaching staff.

Steele wasn't expected to be a part of Josh Heupel's staff and that became official on Thursday when the school announced that Mike Ekeler would be the team's outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.

Steele is a Tennessee alum and was hired by the Volunteers on Jan. 12, or 51 days before Ekeler's hire filled out Heupel's new staff. The former Auburn defensive coordinator's hire came less than a week before the school fired coach Jeremy Pruitt for alleged NCAA violations after an internal investigation into the program. Pruitt's firing meant that Steele was the team's interim coach until Tennessee hired UCF athletic director Danny White and White hired Heupel from UCF.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 16: Auburn Tigers Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele before the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers on November 16, 2019, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kevin Steele signed a two-year deal with Tennessee in January. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Steele signed for two years, $900K

Steele was on the coaching market after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator for five seasons. He stayed on staff after Gus Malzahn was fired at the end of the 2020 season and coached the team in the Citrus Bowl.

But Steele didn't get the head coaching job at Auburn as the school hired Bryan Harsin from Boise State. That made him available to Tennessee, who signed him to a two-year, $900,000 deal to be a defensive assistant while Pruitt was still in charge.

Now that he's no longer part of Tennessee's coaching staff, Tennessee owes Steele a buyout like Auburn does. The school is required to pay Steele per the terms of his contract, though that buyout can be mitigated if he finds a new job.

Steele's situation is further proof that being a college football coach can be a quite lucrative proposition. And we're guessing that Tennessee isn't too upset about potentially paying the buyout on a six-figure contract for less than two months of work given that the school is aiming to avoid paying Pruitt his $10+ million buyout because of those alleged violations.

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