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Big Ten Football Program in Big Trouble

http://www.cobrabrigade.com/images/CoachHepIUpage.jpeg You are a Big Ten school with a solid academic and cultural reputation. Your athletics department has off-the-hook success in a wide variety of sports despite low budgets. You have national recognition (not to mention a few championship titles) in basketball, soccer, swimming and diving. Your football program has had its ups and downs but has recently secured 55 million dollars to improve its facilities and enthusiasm grips the land.  You have finally started recruiting the in-state talent again despite the successes of Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue being no further away than 5 hour drives. There is one thing missing, the thing upon which the whole deal turns. Your coach hasn't been seen in three months.
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I never wanted to write this.  I still don't (you can ask Cobra).  But the near calamity of the situation, Cobra being up my crack about it for two months, and the recent media involvement has forced my hand on posting about the situation regarding Terry Hoeppner and the coaching vacancy at Indiana University. 

Let me first begin by catching you up.

Terry Hoeppner is the head football coach at Indiana University.  He arrived at IU in 2005 after leading the Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks.  Hoeppner, an Indiana native, dominated the MAC until 2005 when he decided to return home and resurrect the ailing IU football program.  Hoeppner is an energy coach and a motivator, which was exactly what Indiana needed.  He favors a spread offense and bend-don't-break defensive schemes designed to take advantage of turnovers.  At the end of his first season at IU, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and had to have a tumor removed.  In September of 2006 it was determined that he would have to have additional procedures and sat out two weeks of the regular season.  In February of 2007 he made his last public appearance and in March stated that he would be skipping spring practice and the spring football scrimmage set in April.

Before I continue again, let me say this:

Bruce Paine loves Terry Hoeppner like flowers love the sun.  Terry Hoeppner is the perfect coach to  rebuild Indiana University football.  Hep is a Hoosier, which means something not only to the IU faithful but to recruiting the state.  He is an energy coach, a high motor coach that radiates enthusiasm and charisma.  He leads from the front, both by sparking new traditions and adhering to old ones.  He is the first on the field and last off.  He is beloved and effective.  Even in a state where the sports fans take things so seriously that Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach, Mrs. Hoeppner makes a good impression as well.  The following quotes are from IU's athletics site, and pretty accurately reflect how the fanbase in southern Indiana has responded to Hoeppner.

   "Hoeppner made an immediate impact in his first year at the helm of the Hoosier program. In addition to leading Indiana to its first 4-1 start since 1994, Hoeppner rejuvenated an IU fan base that enjoyed a 39-percent increase in per-game attendance, a 46-percent increase in overall season ticket sales and a 110-percent increase in student season ticket sales."

 "During his head coaching career, Hoeppner has mentored 11 eventual NFL draft picks, including 2004 NFL Rookie of the Year and Super Bowl XL champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger says that the IU program is in terrific hands. "I can't say enough about Coach Hoeppner. He is an inspiration, a second father to me. I love him to death," he said. "I told him that I will always support him, because he has always supported me. He's a wise man who made a wise decision. Going home (to Indiana) has got to be a good feeling." Roethlisberger says Hoeppner is the consummate player's coach. "Indiana players are getting a great coach and a great mentor," Roethlisberger said. "He's touched so many lives in so many ways. He's going to do great things at IU. The players are going to love him. He's a players' coach."


The Current Pulse

In late February of 2007, Hoeppner attended a luncheon in Indianapolis and delivered a speech.  It was the last time he was seen as a public figure.  In March he delivered a press release that he would not be attending the spring game because his recovery demanded the time away.  As the spring has passed, IU has gotten closer to the September 1st opener against Indiana State, tension has been growing.  Within the last few weeks Bloomington's local paper, The Herald-Times, has run several articles on the topic of Hoeppner's return, and the Indianapolis Star published a question and answer session  with Indiana University's Athletic Director, Rick Greenspan.  The article drew a little national attention and on June 7, The Associated Press put together an article about how IU had an opportunity to cut Hoeppner loose from his contract because of a disability provision that would allow the university to fire Hoeppner if he was unable to perform as a coach.  ESPN.COM posted the article and it can be seen here.  The Associated Press overstepped itself with its article, the title, "With Hoeppner's health in question, contract status uncertain," indicates that the university is looking for an out.  It is not.  Hoeppner's contract status is not uncertain.  He is IU's head football coach.  His HEALTH is uncertain, and he has been exercising his rights in keeping details about his health to himself and his family.  Rick Greenspan does not rate high on Bruce Paine's chart for a variety of reasons, but he is inching ever closer to my good side.  He refused to speak to the AP on this topic after several of their attempts to gain an interview.  He respected Hep's desire for confidentiality.  It was a high-class move on his part when the AP was playing Busch League ball.  (I guess I won't be working for the AP any time soon.)  Greenspan has been forthcoming with the information he feels at liberty to discuss, and has clearly stated that he won't invade Hep's privacy.  Classy, classy move.  He has admitted that the situation is frustrating, but given the circumstances, he is doing a bang up job "dancin with the one that brung him" and the Painster likes loyalty.  He has made it clear that Hep's health is the prime concern and that IU football will soldier on in his absence and in his name.  Greenspan likes to be on the playing field.  He likes to be close to the players and he likes to take his suit coat off on gameday and make himself feel like he is in the trenches.  He also likes to put a dip in while he is down there, which is kind of funny but gross on the whole.  He also has a reputation for bullying his way around the athletic department and cutting people loose so he can make room for a little nepotism.  These things generally don't get a guy on Paine's good side, but he is standing behind his coach, and that covers a multitude of sins.

Media is quietly camping out IU practices and the training facilities to get pictures of Hep on the off chance he appears.  He isn't.  The players are being very tight lipped in what Bruce Paine believes is a very good sign of discipline and leadership.  Two players were contacted for this article and none were willing to give quotes or have their names listed.  I don't mind.  One player commented that Hoeppner continues to watch film of the team's practices and scrimmages, and give emails and phone calls to players on a regular basis to break down technique and stay in contact, they even visit or eat meals together occasionally.  When Greenspan commented  on the Spring Game he used every shift+F7 synonym he found for "good" to describe the way the team looked these last two months.  In addition, no recruit has backed out of a commitment to the program.  Wide receivers, highly sought after in Hoeppner's spread offense, seem undeterred.  Marquelo Suel, a 6'3" standout receiver at Fort Wayne's Harding High School, has not changed his verbal commitment despite the situation.  Indiana University, it would appear, is unwilling to turn its back on Terry Hoeppner despite the doubt, concern, and millions of dollars banking on the football squad.

I am under the suspicion that when Terry Hoeppner had a tumor removed in December of 2005 doctors were unable to determine if it had "clear margins".  When doctors remove brain tumors they test the surrounding tissue to discover whether or not the tumor has "fingers", if it does, it often leads to the discovery of subsequent tumors.  After a short remission, I believe the operation he underwent in 2006 was to discover if shadows appearing on brain scans were scar tissue or more cancer and that it turned out to be the later.  Radiation and chemotherapy are devastating to the body's ability to rebuild itself and cytotoxic treatments are always scary.  It has been said to me, though not directly by a memebr of the team, that the players are scared for Hoeppner because his appearance is degenerating.  That is often the case when one undergoes chemo and radiation and does more to convince me of my assumptions.  

Though many seem to think that immediate action is necessary, I don't believe it is.   What harm would there be in Terry Hoeppner taking a year off to get healthy?  He is committed to recruiting the state, and much of this year's recruiting was done by Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch.  Indiana will not attract a better head coach than Terry Hoeppner, even though it appears to be on the upswing, the school is still a basketball school and football will always be a backseat sport.  Bill Lynch seems to be more than aware of the dynamics of the situation, and he possesses head coaching experience from Butler, Ball State and DePauw.  He is not as charismatic as Hep, he doesn't have the frontman ability and prefers a more reserved approach, but he is a solid X's and O's guy who has energy and grit.  He can hold the fort.  If he is unwilling to, that may be problematic, but there has been no indication that that is the case.  If Hoeppner is undergoing treatment, it may be six months to a year before he is ready to retake the helm, and it would seem that the fanbase should be ready for that eventuality.  If they do not have the patience for it, they should reconsider.  I think it would behoove them to support a coach who is dedicated to the community.  At 60, his two year extension into 2012 makes it appear as though he would like to retire a Hoosier.  If Hep is unable to continue coaching again it would indeed be dire.  If his condition is such that a return would be unlikely I think that Hoeppner would be more than willing to step down, since he has not, I believe he fully intends to return.

This represents a fork in the road for Indiana University, its football program, and its fans.  If they turn their back on Terry Hoeppner and his family while they are in the midst of a personal crisis, it would be a loss for the community and a sad reminder that money rules college athletics and that IU (not known recently for promoting from within) has completely abandoned the idea of loyalty.  If they stick with Hep, then they have something to hang their hats on, something that galvanizes people and makes them want to be a part of his recovery.  Stick with Hoeppner.  Stand beside him and let him know he has something to fight for.  

The Cobra Brigade would like to convey its well wishes to the family of Terry Hoeppner and its encouragement to the coaches and players who carry on in his stead.

You can email Bruce Paine at brucelikespaine@yahoo.com

Ron Mexico said

It is a shame how the human body can betray us. It always seems to strike when things are going well. Not just in the program, but in his personal life (coming back home). I hope he makes a full recovery, and even if he can't coach again, he will always be remembered as a Hoosier in my book.

Jack Cobra said

Part of me says that Hoeppner needs to step down as the Head Coach and into a more administrative role (see Homer Drew) until he contract runs out. Another part of me says that Greenspan needs to man up and make a decision instead of leaving the Hoosiers hanging.

I'm just worried that the progress Hoeppner made will be lost because of the uncertainty surrounding the situation.

Bruce Paine said

That is the real crux of the deal. If they bring someone new in now they will undoubtedly start the rebuild over, cant avoid it. If they give Hep a chance I think he can pick it up again. that is assuming he is capable of returning. I think his win over Iowa last year should have bought him a chance. IU's best win in ten years maybe

gainluca said

I think the AD must wait and hope the guy is ok. He'd get killed (poor choice) for throwing Hoeppner out and then watching him (god forbid) pass away or get better and talk to Skip Bayless or Wilbon on PTI.

Hope he gets better quick and coaches them up this fall. Based on the silence of everyone, I find that doubtful.

IU Football is not such a great program that it is necessary to run Hoeppner out for the sake of certainty and stability.

Hep has added more passion and built more interest in the program for this IU alum since anyone not named Anthony Thompson. With the basketball program ready to reassert itself as a Top Ten program, IU can and should do the right thing.

Jack Cobra said

Serafini broke my heart that year he pitched for the Cubs. Such promise, such crappy results.

I think you forgot Randle-El was there in between AT and Hep.

Bruce Paine said

Randle El was there, but here is a horrifying statement on where the IU fanbase was then . In 2001 I had rescheduled its yearly faceoff with Kentucky(yuck) because of a certain terrible event. they played the game late in November a week after IU had just beaten arch rival Purdue for the first time in a bazillion years (Purdue had scored 40+ points in each of the previous three meetings with Drew Brees at the helm). So IU beats Purdue and Twaan is going to have his last home game against hated wildcats and IU gets 15000 Randle el bobbleheads made to give away to the first 15000 people into the stadium. They had some leftover. I hope Miami knows what it is getting into.

Silverd said

I think the IU faithful have shown their colors, we put up with a BB coach that thought that HE was the university for too many years. With Hep, he HAS brought in a new tradition in major sports, he puts the university and players first. He did more for the morale of the football program in one year than has been done in the previous 20.

I think Greenspan has shown class, and I hope the IU faithful also respect Hep during his recovery time, Hep has taught us how to be faithful to IU.

moegolden said

MoeGolden respects Bruce Paine's opinion, but thinks the third person thing is lame.

fan said

Greenspan does not have a tough decision, the course to take is obvious.

stick with Hep 100% as long as it takes.

anything else would be so wrong in so many ways.

Jack Cobra said

Jack Cobra thinks moegolden is wrong but respects his opinion on the matter.

MrG said

Coach Hep was very beloved at Miami U. (Please don't confuse us with U of Miami(Coral Gables) We were here first and before Florida was even a state and still belonged to Spain.)
It hurt us when Coach Hep left for IU, but he's a born and bred Indianan through and through.
We can't fault him for taking the opportunity to coach at a Big Ten School and retire near his hometown too/in his homestate.

When folks at MHT heard about the cancer we were as devastated as IU fans were. He's an amazing guy and an amazing Coach. The guy has that thing that inspires loyalty- something that few in College Ball these days can claim or aspire to.

If IU should do the worst thing possible and give Hep the Kick- I'm sure folks at Miami will take him back with open arms in some capacity in the sports system. (We're quite depleted recently in the front offices due to other getting better job offers and or moving on to jobs with their alma-maters. Who'd have thought Miami was more than the Cradle of Coaches.

I'm sure one day Coach Hep will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Miami- even though he's not a graduate of the same. He brought the team to a top ten ranking and a few years before at 10-1 we got spurned by every bowl out there too (They took UNC which we beat early on in the season for the vegas bowl for Friggin sake!)

I've met the man and I can say few can equal his spirit. At Miami right now we're still lucky to have an AD that has the same drive spirit and personality to treat everyone as a person too and he's glad to meet you and chat a few moments no matter how much you gave or didn't give to the sports or academic funds.

I hope if he's undergoing chemo or rad therapy that they are using the directed 3D targeted wave xray-gamma ray systems to blow the nasty clusters up piece by piece, thus saving the rest of his mind and body the onorous pillaging secondary effects of normal cancer rad treatments.

Go RedHawks and Go IU Support HEP and stay strong. Send him letters and emails with your well wishes. They do have an effect on moral in the hard times.

evang2 said

The IU alumni and fan base needs to rally around Coach Hep. We won't lack for motivation and heart this season.

I would like to send him a card or letter. Where can we find his contact info?

Jack Cobra said

MrG.....thanks for your wonderfully written comment. Really hits the spot. Of course we know if's Miami of Ohio, that's where all the hot girls attend school.

evang2....I believe you could send a card/letter to the IU Athletic Office and it will reach him. Try the following:
Indiana University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, c/o Coach Terry Hoeppner
Assembly Hall, 1001 East 17th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408-1590

Greg Kelly said

Has anyone really recommended that Hep be fired or his contract voided? I know AP did a story about the clause in his contract (which seems pretty boilerplate, but I dont know of anyone, not even the most cynical blogger types, calling for a new coach.

Hot Tub said

You can also email to football@indiana.edu

Bruce Paine said

Greg Kelly. According to IU they are not looking to void the contract. No one in the Athletic Department is really willing to speak on the record about the topic, so it truly is hard to say. I would think that if they are going to part ways he will simply resign or be asked to resign so they can hand off his title to someone else. When I asked the Media Office (via email so I could protect my pseudonym) they were fairly dismissive but I would think that any termination of the contract would be mutual given the situation. On a side note, in addition to the hatemail I am receiving from the AP, I have received several emails form anonymous individuals who read the piece, supported it, and wanted to say more on the record but were unable to because of it would affect their employment. I am investigating it almost all the time though and fans should expect an update (even if it is just a small one) within a week or so.

Bruce Paine said

Let me respond to the two emails i just received about my above comments. I am investigating the situation of Hoeppner's employment with IU, not his health. If I discover that he has resigned or is about to resign you can read it hear, but I will not share any medical information I discover under any circumstances so stop asking. It is none of my business and none of yours. Pray for Coach Hep and his family and support the Hoosiers. thanks, Bruce

Captain Morgan said

Good stuff Paine. Being from Indiana, and knowing how Hoosiers are, I can only see that the Hoosier community will be behind Hep with support and encouragement for a much welcomed return.

sadhoosier said

coach hep has passed away this morning...

sadhoosier said

coach hep has passed away this morning...

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