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UT to pay $860k to end contract with asst. coach Kevin Steele less than two months after hiring him

UT had hired Steele shortly before firing former head football coach Jeremy Pruitt. On Friday, the program decided not to retain Steele.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee is parting ways with assistant football coach Kevin Steele less than two months after hiring him.

UT Athletics said it is terminating the defensive assistant coach without cause, meaning it will be paying Steele more than $860,000 over the next two years as part of the buyout built into his contract. 

Steele's contract ended Friday. He returned to Rocky Top as a defensive assistant coach on January 12 and had originally signed on to stay at Tennessee for two years. 

The termination comes amid a shakeup in the football program months into an internal investigation into NCAA violations within the football program that led to the firings of former head coach Jeremy Pruitt and nine other assistant coaches and staff on January 18. 

READ MORE: Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt, 9 others fired after "serious" NCAA violations surface

Following Pruitt's firing, Steele took over as interim head coach for just over a week until UT announced it hired UCF's Josh Heupel to take over the Vol Football program. Heupel is continuing to rebuild the coaching lineup, and has brought in several new faces to the program. On Thursday, it became clear Steele wouldn't be retained after the program announced its final coaching hire.

The university noted in the letter it sent to Steele that he has an obligation to "cooperate reasonably with the University in any investigation of Governing Athletic Rules or University Rules."