Veteran SEC defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s short-lived stint at Tennessee in 2021 paid him well.
Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee hired Steele to be a defensive assistant on Jan. 12 but the former Tennessee player and assistant became interim coach just six days later when Tennessee fired Pruitt due to an internal investigation into recruiting violations.
There was speculation that Steele might get the Vols’ head coach job— or at least have his interim tag extended. Instead, director of athletics Danny White settled on Central Florida coach Josh Heupel.
Heupel and Steele never had any serious discussion about the latter staying on the former’s staff and Steele left his alma mater after three weeks.
For those three weeks of work, Tennessee owes Steele over $860,000 in buyout checks due to the two-year contract he signed.
Earlier this offseason, Steele told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd that he could “write a book” on his 18 days in Knoxville. However, Steele softened his tone towards Tennessee this week in an interview with a Mobile radio station
“I want Tennessee to win, and get it back to the way it should be,” Steele told SportsTalk 99.5 FM.
There doesn’t appear to be any hard feelings between Steele and Heupel after the first year head coach parted ways with the longtime SEC coordinator.
“Josh is a good guy,” Steele said. “I think he’s got a lot of energy, brings a lot to the table offensively.”
Steele clearly wasn’t trying to ruffle feathers in his interview but seemed to harbor more ill will towards Auburn where he spent the last five years as defensive coordinator and almost became head coach following Gus Malzahn’s termination.
Steele currently isn’t coaching. If he were to have accepted a coaching job, his buyout would have dropped.