Battle grew up in Birmingham, Ala., where his father (William) was head football coach and athletics director at Birmingham Southern University for more than 30 years. Derek Dooley grew up in Athens, Ga., where his father (Vince) was head football coach at Georgia for 25 years and athletics director for 25 more.
Battle played wide receiver at the University of Alabama under Bear Bryant, who ultimately won 323 games in 38 seasons. Dooley played wide receiver at the University of Virginia under George Welsh, who ultimately won 189 games in 28 seasons.
Battle spent his first three years as a college assistant coaching wide receivers for Tennessee. Dooley spent his first three years as a college assistant coaching wide receivers for Southern Methodist.
Battle was a clean-cut and charismatic 28-year-old when he was hired as Tennessee's head football coach in 1970. Witty and good-looking, he seemed ideally suited to serve as the face of the program. Derek Dooley was a clean-cut and charismatic 41-year-old when he was hired as Tennessee's head football coach 40 years later, in 2010. Witty and good-looking, he seemed ideally suited to serve as the face of the program.
Battle had never coordinated an offense or a defense when he was tabbed Tennessee's head coach. Dooley had never coordinated an offense or a defense when he was tabbed Tennessee's head coach.
With just three years of college coaching experience and no head coaching experience, Battle was considered a risky hire when Tennessee promoted him in 1970. With just three years of head coaching experience and a losing record, Dooley was considered a risky hire when Tennessee tabbed him in 2010.
Battle replaced Doug Dickey, a former University of Florida quarterback who enraged the Vol Nation by abruptly leaving to take his dream job at his alma mater. Dooley replaced Lane Kiffin, a former Fresno State quarterback who enraged the Vol Nation by abruptly leaving to take his dream job at Southern Cal.
After winning big with Dickey recruits for four years (11-1, 10-2, 10-2, 8-4), Battle's final three years on The Hill produced records of 7-3-2, 7-5, 6-5 ... an average of 6.7 wins per season. With one game remaining in the 2012 season, Derek Dooley's three years on The Hill have produced records of 6-7, 5-7, 4-7 ... an average of 5.0 wins per season.
When Battle's 1976 team struggled to a 3-4 start, he declared November to be the beginning of a "new season." The Vols went 3-1 down the stretch to finish 6-5. When Dooley's 2012 team struggled to a 3-5 start, he declared November to be the beginning of a "second season."
Battle had the misfortune to compete against such ultra-successful SEC coaches as Bear Bryant (Alabama), Shug Jordan (Auburn), Vince Dooley (Georgia) and Charlie McClendon (LSU) — all in or near their prime. Dooley has had to compete against such ultra-successful SEC coaches as Nick Saban (Alabama), Steve Spurrier (South Carolina), Les Miles (LSU) and Mark Richt (Georgia).
The low point for Battle came in a 1973 home game with Georgia, when he opted for a fake punt late in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs stuffed the play, then parlayed their superior field position into a touchdown and a 35-31 victory. The low point for Dooley came in a 2012 home game with Missouri, when he opted to run out the clock the last 35 seconds of regulation rather than try to get in field-goal position.
Battle was fired after his 1976 team posted six wins, with only two coming against SEC foes. If Tennessee beats Kentucky in the home finale, Dooley will be fired after his 2012 team posted five wins, with only one coming against an SEC foe.
Upon firing Battle, Tennessee hired a "name" coach fresh from a national title at Pittsburgh, Johnny Majors. Upon firing Dooley, Tennessee has no choice but to hire a "name" coach. The fan base won't tolerate another "up-and-coming" guy with a nondescript resume.
Ultimately, Battle was not ready for the challenge when the Vol job was thrust upon him. Nor was Dooley.
Watch as Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart addressed the media Sunday:
Here is what Dooley had to say after the Volunteers lost 41-18 to Vanderbilt on Saturday night: