A new Tennessee football coaching search is officially underway following the firing of Jeremy Pruitt on Monday.
Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer will be retiring once his replacement is hired. Defensive assistant Kevin Steele, who was hired by Pruitt last week, will serve as the acting head coach.
“Although he only recently joined the Volunteers, he has the right leadership experience, having been a former head coach at Baylor and defensive coordinator at Auburn,” Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman said Monday. “He also served as the interim head coach at Auburn and is widely considered a top recruiter.
“Coach Steele has deep Volunteer roots, having played here and coached here in the past. We will give him the support he needs to keep the program moving forward toward success.”
Steele is one of many candidates expected to be looked at for the job opening. Offshore sportsbook BetOnline released odds on Tuesday for the next Tennessee head coach.
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier is listed as the +350 favorite. He has gone 21-4 over his last two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns and is a Tennessee native. Napier did pass on the South Carolina and Auburn openings, so he could do the same here.
Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell has the second-shortest odds at +400. Caldwell is coming off an excellent season and is also a Tennessee native. He played and coached at East Tennessee State.
The next tier of options includes Bill Clark (+450), Hugh Freeze (+475) and Luke Fickell (+500). Clark had conversations with Auburn about its opening, but eventually pulled his name out of the conversation.
Freeze would have to be considered a long-shot option due to the NCAA violations surrounding Tennessee’s program. He has short odds due to name recognition—BetOnline expects bettors to put money down on Freeze.
Steele is currently listed at +700 to become the head coach, but he opened with 12/1 odds. He was the interim head coach at Auburn just 18 days before he was given the same title in Knoxville. Steele had reportedly emerged as a serious candidate for the Auburn job, which prompted a backlash from the fan base.
His previous boss, Gus Malzahn, is priced at 10/1 to land the Tennessee job. It’s unlikely that Malzahn and Steele would co-exist on the same staff, so Malzahn is a long-shot candidate.
BetOnline is also offering Jon Gruden at 50/1 to be the next Tennessee head coach. The sportsbook is hoping to get some free money from bettors on that wager.