One rough night at the office doesn't appear to be enough to erase an entire resume.
Even if it happens to be the latest entry on a possible application.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was on the wrong end of a historic blowout on Wednesday night in the Orange Bowl, with his unit allowing 70 points to West Virginia in the lopsided loss. But according to a source familiar with the search process at Tennessee but not authorized to speak publicly about it on Thursday, Steele's body of work in 26 years as a coach would take precedence over a one-game sample and the Vols alum and former assistant remains a viable candidate to replace Justin Wilcox.
No definitive timetable has been established for filling the vacancy created when Wilcox bolted for an opening at Washington on Monday, taking linebackers coach Peter Sirmon with him. And the source could not confirm details of any conversations between UT coach Derek Dooley and Steele — or any other possible targets for the position.
But Steele does have ties to Dooley's old boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, and his new one, former Florida State athletic director and current UT vice chancellor Dave Hart. And he at least appears to be on the radar for the Vols now that Clemson's season is officially over, even considering the disappointing way it ended for Steele.
"It just got off track, guys started pressing, got out of position and didn't execute very well, and that's on me," Steele told Clemson reporters after the game. "It's on me, it's my job to get them to execute and get ready.
"I've got to do a better job. It's my responsibility, and I take responsibility for it. In this business, you stand in the paint, take shots and get better."
If Steele is considering improving UT's defense instead of Clemson's heading into next year, he gave no indication of that after the game. A candidate for Dooley two years ago before the hiring of Wilcox, Steele denied having spoken with any other programs or having asked permission of Tigers coach Dabo Swinney to do so.
Dooley hasn't tipped his hand about his next coaching move, either, after he nabbed another UT product to fill out his coaching staff last month by signing former South Carolina assistant Jay Graham to handle running backs at his alma mater. In his first public comments since the season-ending loss at Kentucky, Dooley made clear that he wouldn't rush to a decision or limit his options to just presumptive candidates like Steele or former Miami coach Randy Shannon when tabbing a new leader for the defense.
"I wish that I could put a timeframe on it," he said Tuesday. "It's really complex, given that you have to invest time in recruiting and some teams are still playing in the NFL. It's really hard to say.
"Certainly, the quicker the better. What we're not going to do is try and compromise who we get to hurry it up."