Located in the north end zone of Memorial Stadium, it’s tradition for IU football players and coaches to touch Hep’s Rock when taking the field.
Formerly known as The Rock, it was discovered by former IU Coach Terry Hoeppner in 2005 on a practice field when he was driving into work one morning. He had it removed and placed on a granite slab.
“It was pretty cool, because he did it with a story,” former IU quarterback Dustin Hass told the Indiana Daily Student in September 2017. “He’s talking about history and Alcatraz, and Alcatraz was on a rock. He said when people went to Alcatraz, they didn’t come back. They did hard time at Alcatraz. So, he said when it came to play, you did hard time in the rock.”
Hoeppner started off strong with the Hoosiers when he took the helm in 2005. IU had a 4-1 record before losing its next six games. After the season, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He remained head coach for the 2006 season, in which IU fell just one game short of reaching a college bowl berth.
On March 2007, Hoeppner announced he had to step down due to brain cancer. He died just three months later.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lynch took over as IU head coach the following season and led the Hoosiers to a 7-6 record and their first bowl game appearance in 14 years. IU lost to Oklahoma State 49-35 in the Insight Bowl.
“He had a little showman in him, obviously, with The Rock, which was basically a gimmick to get people to come to the stadium,” Mark Deal, former IU player, coach and assistant director of development of the IU Varsity Club told the IDS in September 2017. “But what was a gimmick turned out to be much, much more when he got cancer. It became a symbol of his fight against cancer and the rock that he was.”
On Sept. 23, 2017, IU took the field against Georgia Southern in special Hep’s Rock uniforms. The classic crimson jerseys had numbers highlighted with a limestone pattern and their gloves were stone colored as well.
The jerseys were used to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Hoeppner’s death. There was a moment of silence before kickoff for Hoeppner and his family. IU won the game 52-17.
Despite his short tenure with the Hoosiers, Hoeppner's influence still reigns. He brought a mentality that rejuvenated the program and helped bring it to what it is today.
IU football doesn’t have a national title and hasn’t won a conference title since 1967, but the one thing the Hoosiers can hang their hat on is the tradition of Hep’s Rock.
“My initial thought was that this was something that differentiated us from other college football programs,” former IU tight end Taylor Donnell told the IDS in September 2017. “A lot of teams have something very significant that differentiates them from the other teams, and Indiana was lacking that for a very long time.”
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