Derek Dooley’s hip surgery makes for an unusual week of preparation at Tennessee

Dr. Saturday

When Derek Dooley preaches to his Tennessee team about toughness, he should have some credibility with his players on the subject.

Dooley has experienced increasing pain in his right hip the last couple months, and he finally got an MRI last week. The test showed he had a hip fracture, and reported he underwent surgery on Tuesday -- after coaching his team in a Tuesday morning practice session.

It's impossible to criticize Dooley for having his fractured hip repaired after hobbling around on it for a couple months, but it does create an unusual situation this week for the Vols.

Tennessee will be without its coach for Wednesday's practice at least, and perhaps Thursday as well. He'll coach Saturday at Mississippi State (coincidentally Dooley's surgery was performed by Dr. Russell Betcher, who played football at Mississippi State in 1987) but do so from the press box.

This is not an ideal situation for Tennessee in a tough road game at Mississippi State, but it has been done before. In 1999, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez wasn't on the sideline for eight games after having knee surgery, and wasn't in the stadium at all for a game against Minnesota. The Badgers won that game at Minnesota, won every game with Alvarez in the press box, and went to the Rose Bowl. At the end of the 2006 season, Joe Paterno coached Penn State in the Outback Bowl from the press box after suffering injuries in a sideline collision, and coached games in 2008 from the press box following hip replacement surgery. He also coached Penn State from the press box in the Rose Bowl that season as well.

So what Tennessee is going through this week isn't unprecedented, but it will be another challenge for the Vols.

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