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Former Tennessee coach Bill Battle hospitalized with COVID-19

(Photo courtesy of Malcolm Emmons – USA Today Sports)

Former Tennessee head coach and Alabama athletic director Bill Battle is currently hospitalized in Birmingham due to COVID-19.

Battle, 78, released a statement on Friday, stating that he was expecting to make a full recovery.

“I appreciate the prayers and well-wishes from so many, and want to let you know that I’m stable and resting comfortably,” Battle said in the statement. “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.”

Before embarking on a coaching career, Battle was a member of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s 1961 national championship team.

Following a stint as an assistant coach at Army, Battle joined former Tennessee head coach Doug Dickey’s staff as a defensive ends coach in 1966. After Dickey took the Florida job following the 1969 season, Battle was named the Vols’ head coach at age 28.

Between 1970-76, Battle compiled a 59-22-2 record, including a 24-0 win over Alabama en route to a Sugar Bowl victory and an 11-1 finish in his first season.

But after going 1-6 against the Crimson Tide and failing to win an SEC title after posting three-straight 10 or more when seasons early in his tenure, Battle was fired after seven seasons and replaced by former Tennessee player Johnny Majors.

Tennessee was Battle’s only head coaching job. After a career in sports marketing, Battle returned to his Alma mater in 2013 to serve as athletic director. He retired in 2017.

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