Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Unmatched, unbridled enthusiasm

Wandering around campus three years ago this July, I stumbled upon several posters proclaiming that this hat-wearing, finger-pointing man “wanted me.” He seemed nice enough – and being a child of the Southeastern Conference I breathe and bleed college football – so I accepted.\nI can’t remember the first time I ever saw Terry Hoeppner in person, though I do remember the first time I did not. I had planned to go to the annual first-semester pep rally down at the stadium, but didn’t attend for reasons long since lost to me.\nA few friends did go, and they returned with one name on their lips: Coach Hep. They said he was enthusiastic. They said he was a little bit crazy. They said they loved it.\nThen came the season opener against Central Michigan – a game we narrowly won – but none of us could watch it since it wasn’t on TV (Looking back, perhaps the Big Ten Network isn’t terrible.)\nThe home opener that year came against Nicholls State, a college from down in the bayou still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. We lent them uniforms to play in and they returned the favor by running over us with an option offense that almost got them a win. We of the Crimson Crew were not feeling chipper about our bowl opportunities.\nBut after that 35-31 victory, as we were walking out, something strange began happening. The entire football team, led by that man from the poster, walked across the field and came into the stands, thanking us for our patronage and singing along as we rang out one last rendition of the fight song.\nThis, along with many other pre- and post-game rituals, became tradition after Terry Hoeppner came to IU, and most of us loved him for it. My friends would all go quiet the moment one of his patented commercials came on IUSTV, that station everyone loves when they live in the dorms.\nBut what endeared me to Hoeppner wasn’t his indefatigable enthusiasm – playing on plenty of bad high-school football teams had left me numb to rallying cries. What got me about Hoeppner was that I truly believed he wanted to be at IU for good. He wanted to make this program his own. Bloomington wasn’t just a stepping stone to a bigger job.\nI figured any man who could pin his loyalties to a program like that deserved my support and respect – allowing me to bill season tickets to my bursar helped, too.\nI awoke late on the morning of June 19, 2007. My phone had died the night before, and when I plugged it in and turned it on I had seven messages waiting for me, a sure sign something was wrong.\nThe rest of the day was a blur of planning coverage, organizing staff and resources and getting out to the groundbreaking of new facilities held that day. It didn’t quite set in for me that the man we all had so loved was gone until that night.\nTo risk a cliche, Terry Hoeppner was more than a football coach to me. Hoeppner defined my first semester of college, a trying time for a Georgia boy 526 miles from home.\nTake all of this for what it’s worth. I never met the man. I’ll admit there are far more qualified candidates in this world to talk about Hoeppner personally.\nBut in the way of great college coaches, you never felt like you had to meet Hoeppner to tell the stories.\nLike his first press conference, when he brought in a literal rose bowl as a sign of where IU would be headed in the future. Or the time he invited an IDS staffer who had criticized his fervent approach to raising fan support along on “The Walk” during his first year as coach, not to criticize but to illustrate that he really tried to practice what he preached.\nTerry Hoeppner was a lot of things to a lot of people. But to the student body (or what of it that walked through the gates of Memorial Stadium every Saturday) he was our coach. And we miss him to this day.

Get stories like this in your inbox
Subscribe