BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Terry Hoeppner won nine games as Indiana's coach, but will always be remembered as the program's rock.
The man hired to revive Indiana's floundering football program in 2004 - who had a limestone boulder weighing more than a metric ton placed in the north end zone of Memorial Stadium - died of complications of a brain tumour Tuesday morning in hospital with his family at his side. He was 59.
Hoeppner waged his personal battle with the same zeal that made him a popular coach.
“I think if you measure the man strictly by wins and losses, I think you're underselling a lot of attributes,” athletic director Rick Greenspan said Tuesday. “He has really touched a lot of people, inspired a lot of people, and his memory will live on in these players and other people for a long time.”
In two seasons, Hoeppner reinvigorated the program by embracing fans, students, boosters and, of course, players. He even nicknamed Memorial Stadium “The Rock.” Now his legacy will be passed to Bill Lynch, a longtime friend who was named interim coach Friday.
Although Hoeppner spent 19 seasons as a coach at Miami, the northeastern Indiana native's heart was always back home in Indiana.
When Indiana hired Hoeppner in December 2004, Greenspan put a rose in a crystal bowl and placed it on the podium, symbolic of the school's expectations for its 26th football coach. Hoeppner welcomed it, referring to John Pont - the only coach to lead Indiana to a Rose Bowl - and recalling the chant “Punt, John, Punt,” which was popular during the Hoosiers' 1967 Big Ten championship season.
His death hit friends, colleagues and players hard.
“I called my wife, told her, then closed my office door and cried for about 10 minutes,” said Mark Deal, a Varsity Club employee who has known Hoeppner since 1980. “We've had people here for 20 or 30 years, and Terry Hoeppner did more here in two years than most people do in a lifetime.”
Hoeppner's spirit and motto - “Don't Quit” - were evident amid the sorrow.
His wife, Jane, asked university officials to proceed with plans for a groundbreaking that was already scheduled. Hoeppner, two of her children, Hoeppner's mother and sister all attended the ceremony to kick off a US$55-million project Hoeppner had lobbied hard for.
Players said they were unaware of the severity of Hoeppner's illness until team meetings Tuesday.
“No one knew,” fullback Josiah Sears said. “I don't think the coaches knew till this weekend.
“They broke the news to us, at 6:30 this morning, that it was a grave situation and that it would be a tough fight. At 7:30 they told us he had passed on.”