Former Tennessee Head Coach Bill Battle Hospitalized After Contracting COVID-19

Volunteer Country Staff

Former Tennessee head coach Bill Battle has been hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus. Battle, who is 78 years old and was also diagnosed with cancer in 2016, provided the following statement to the media: “I appreciate the prayers and well-wishes from so many, and want to let you know that I’m stable and resting comfortably. I’ve got great doctors and nurses at UAB looking after me and expect to make a full recovery. Time and patience are important in the meantime.”

Despite playing at the University of Alabama under legendary head coach Bear Bryant, Battle was hired as the University of Tennessee’s 18th head football coach in 1970, replacing former head coach Doug Dickey who left the Vols in favor of his alma mater: The University of Florida. Battle’s tenure in Knoxville lasted until 1976, when the program chose to terminate him after racking up a 59-22-2 record throughout his 6 seasons on Rocky Top. Battle also struggled against the Vols’ biggest rival, Alabama, winning only 1 game against the Tide in his tenure with Tennessee.

Despite its sour ending, Battle’s time in Knoxville started off the right way, as he led Tennessee to an 11-1 season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl. The following season his squad went 10-2 and earned a date in the Liberty Bowl, before finishing with the same record the following year. Battle was able to finish in the Associated Press’ Top-10 in all of his first three seasons in Knoxville, but things began to slip in year 4. 

During the 1973 season the Vols took a major step back, finishing the campaign 8-4 (3-3 SEC), in addition to losing the Gator Bowl to Texas Tech by a score of 28-19. In the years that followed Battle’s teams continued to slip, finishing with a combined 20-13-2 record throughout his final three seasons — prompting Tennessee to force the head coach out.

After the termination of Battle, the University of Tennessee hired someone with strong connections to the program as its next head coach: Volunteer legend Johnny Majors — who would have better luck in Knoxville becoming one of the best head coaches the program has ever seen. Battle left the profession, but would become the athletic director at the University of Alabama 37 years later in 2012. He continued to oversee the athletic department at Alabama until his retirement in 2017. Battle currently serves as a special adviser to Stuart Bell, the University of Alabama’s current President.