Some thoughts on some news pertaining to Tennessee athletics:
Kevin Steele: The former Auburn defensive coordinator has signed on to Tennessee’s football staff for two years and an annual salary of $450,000.
Thoughts: So much for the hiring freeze.
Getting any assistant coach for that salary, especially one with Steele’s considerable background, amounts to a bargain these days of overpaid assistants. Steele was making $2.5 million at Auburn.
It will be interesting to see what the scope of Steele’s role will be and whether he receives any sort of title. The situation is fluid at present. Furthermore, head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s future is uncertain as UT continues its internal investigation into football’s recruiting practices.
Lady Vols: After five consecutive victories, Tennessee (8-1, 2-0 SEC) is back in the Associated Press’ weekly top 25 women’s basketball poll at No. 23. The Lady Vols rose as high as No. 17 last season, during Kellie Harper’s first season as head coach, before dropping out in week No. 16.
Thoughts: The ranking equates to visibility and that’s particularly important to the program at this juncture. Harper acknowledged the significance Tuesday during a Zoom teleconference with reporters. She also noted that it was news when the team returned to practice last week from a shutdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On every (sports) ticker I saw (it said) we were coming back to practice,” Harper said. “I don’t know many other programs that they are going to say that for and say we are actually practicing.
“I think our program still resonates strongly nationally and having that name in that poll only reiterates that.”
The Lady Vols are one of six SEC teams in the AP poll. They’ve already beaten No. 17 Arkansas.
Fellow conference rivals Georgia and Alabama are among the teams receiving votes. Tennessee faces both teams the next two games, beginning with Georgia on Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Staying in the poll will be a challenge.
Vols: The postponement of Tennessee’s men’s basketball game at Vanderbilt on Tuesday marked the sixth time this season that the Vols have lost a game because of the pandemic. The Commodores are scheduled to visit on Saturday. Stay tuned.
Thoughts: The postponement is yet another reminder that no game should be taken for granted this season. For that matter, the same could be said for the season. The rate of virus infection in the country remains high and the state of Tennessee continues to be a hotspot.
It’s only January. Stay tuned.
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.