Vols' Josh Heupel Explains Decision To Part Ways With Kevin Steele

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel introduced his five defensive coaches on Monday and said he felt like he had the right collection of talent to lead the program without former Vols coach Kevin Steele.

“Kevin is a great coach," Heupel said during a Monday press conference. "He has been inside of this league for a long time and has some ties to Tennessee as well. I wish him nothing but the best as he moves on in his coaching career in the future."

Steele could be paid up to $860,870 in severance for a job he had for 49 days. He was terminated just two months into his two-year contract.

The Vols hired the former Auburn defensive coordinator on Jan. 12 when former head coach Jeremy Pruitt still led the program. University chancellor Donde Plowman personally signed off on the hiring of Steele, per ESPN.

Six days later, Pruitt was fired for cause following an investigation that uncovered "serious violations of NCAA rules," and nearly everyone on the entire staff except Steele was terminated.

Once Pruitt was fired on Jan. 18, Steele briefly took over as interim head coach until Tennessee hired Josh Heupel on Jan. 27.

Steele, 62, was Auburn’s defensive coordinator the past five seasons but was not retained by Auburn’s new coach Bryan Harsin after Gus Malzahn was fired in December. Malzahn now leads the UCF Knights football program as of February.