If you're a University of Tennessee fan, it's the latest example of athletic department mismanagement. If you're Kevin Steele, it's good work if you can get it.
The Volunteers are on the hook to pay Steele — hired as a member of head football coach Jeremy Pruitt's defensive staff shortly before UT fired Pruitt for cause — $900,000 over the next two years. He was in Knoxville for two weeks.
As reported by Saturday Down South, Pruitt's replacement, former University of Central Florida head coach Josh Heupel, does not intend to retain Steele, who had been tagged as Tennessee's interim head coach upon Pruitt's firing.
Steele, a renowned defensive coordinator, was already set to make $5 million from Auburn University — where he was serving as interim head coach — after the coach was dismissed following the hire of Bryan Harsin. Unfortunately for Steele, he will not be adding Tennessee’s $900,000 to the $5 million Auburn owes him. Instead, Auburn now owes Steele $4.1 million with Tennessee footing the other $900,000.
It remains to be seen how effective Tennessee will be in its attempts to avoid paying Pruitt his massive buyout. Chancellor Donde Plowman made it quite clear Pruitt was fired for cause amid allegations bags of cash were handed to recruits, meaning the former Volunteer coach won’t be receiving his buyout unless the courts decide otherwise or Tennessee settles with Pruitt out of court.
Either way, Tennessee managed to needlessly burden itself with a buyout of nearly $1 million after signing Steele to a guaranteed contract — including $550,000 in base pay and $350,000 in supplemental pay (which comes via the school’s broadcast, endorsement, and/or consultation contracts as worded by the coach’s contract) — just over two weeks ago.