Palermo worked as an assistant head coach at Wisconsin in 1999 when Badgers coach Barry Alvarez worked seven games from the press box and spent one game in the hospital while recovering from knee surgery. Palermo served as acting head coach during the game Alvarez missed, a 20-17 overtime victory over Minnesota.
Wisconsin went on to finish 10-2 and win the Rose Bowl that season.
"He was in the Mayo Clinic, and we talked on the telephone," Palermo said. "He had a feed to his (room). And the next two games he was up in the press box and he pretty much ran the show. It's just on the field, I took care of things for him."
Although university officials said Dooley had experienced increasing pain over the last two months, Tennessee's assistant coaches were surprised to learn the severity of his injury. An MRI on Friday revealed a fracture that required surgery.
"Coach is a tough guy," special teams and tight ends coach Charlie Coiner said. "He isn't going to show you a whole lot. You could see him limping a little bit, but it surprises you because he's a young guy. That's why I'm glad he got it done. He's 44 years old. He's got a lot of life to live. You don't want to mess around with that."