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Tennessee officially parts ways with defensive assistant Kevin Steele

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NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Auburn vs Northwestern Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, Tennessee and defensive assistant Kevin Steele have parted ways officially. The veteran coach and former Volunteer was hired by Phillip Fulmer and Jeremy Pruitt after Auburn didn’t retain him. The strange thing was, Pruitt was in the midst of an ongoing recruiting investigation — one that eventually led to his firing.

Steele was named the acting head coach and there was some thought that he could stick around for 2021 in that role, but that idea quickly went out the window when Fulmer opted to retire. New athletics director Danny White hired Josh Heupel from UCF, who then hired Tim Banks as his defensive coordinator. The writing was on the wall for Steele, but an exit timeline was unclear.

With Heupel rounding out his staff with Mike Ekeler, Tennessee had to let Steele go. Steele was in Knoxville for a strange and awkward 51 days, and the University is now on the hook for his buyout.

Steele signed a two-year deal with Tennessee, good for a total of $900,000. The deal expires in January 2023, and his contract states that he will be owed the full total of the deal if terminated without cause.

Tennessee just got Butch Jones off the books, and likely won’t have to pay the buyout of Jeremy Pruitt since he was fired with cause, however, the lawyers are still working on that situation. The University is paying the buyouts of now former AD Phillip Fulmer, along with former assistant coaches Joe Osovet, Chris Weinke and Jim Chaney.