Auburn coach Gus Malzahn ended his Birmingham Bowl press conference with a mic drop of sorts.
After a morning full of speculation surrounding the team’s defensive coordinator vacancy, Malzahn revealed Kevin Steele as Will Muschamp’s replacement.
“I wanted to confirm Kevin Steele will be our next defensive coordinator,” Malzahn said. “We are extremely excited to have a guy with his experience, his character and work ethic. I think he will fit in very good and he’s taking over a really talented group.”
It ended speculation that started a couple hours before kickoff with ESPN college football reporter Chris Low tweeting Steele was headed to the Plains “barring a late snag.”
The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger reported that LSU was working diligently to keep Steele in the fold, but their efforts ultimately failed.
Steele’s decision comes on the heels of LSU’s 56-27 win Tuesday night over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl. Coaches and players were still staying at the team hotel in Houston while the coaching drama unfolded.
LSU’s now former defensive coordinator stepped in to replace John Chavis after last season. He was in the first year of a two-year deal worth $1 million annually.
Steele’s lengthy resume goes all the way back to the early 80’s when he was a graduate assistant for Tennessee. His time as a defensive coordinator includes stops at Alabama, Clemson and LSU. His group this season finished 42nd in the country in terms of scoring defense (24.3 points per game) and 27th in total defense (347.2 yards allowed).
Dellenger reported that if Steele did leave Auburn that the school and defensive coordinator would split his buyout of $500,000.
The initial reaction from Auburn players was a positive one.
“We saw the news on our way here, so we haven’t had really got any time to think about it,” safety Tray Matthews said. “Now that I think about it, I think it’s a great deal. Another great coach I’m looking forward to playing under.”
Steele has connections to Auburn’s athletic department in the form of his brother Jeff Steele.
Jeff Steele is an associate athletic director for facilities and operations at Auburn with oversight of all department’s athletic facilities. He’s been in the Plains since 2005 and in his current position since 2006.
Auburn plans to formally introduce Kevin Steele at a press conference by the end of the week.