|One last game day for Hoosiers' coach|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 23 June 2007 11:21|
So players dressed in their white jerseys and red sweat pants, met at Assembly Hall and even got a pep talk from the coach's wife. But when Terry Hoeppner couldn't lead them across the parking lot to the football stadium, his spirit did.
Players, coaches, friends and colleagues gathered Saturday for a farewell to the coach who spent two seasons reinvigorating Indiana football. Hoeppner, 59, died Tuesday from complications of a brain tumor.
``I want you all to know how genuine and how sincere his love and commitment to this place was,'' the coach's wife said. ``It was just magical. This is the start of something great and don't let anything get in the way of it. You are going to be a team, and we are going to go to a bowl game and coach Hoeppner will be there with us.''
A crowd of several thousand showed for Saturday's public memorial service. The family had a private funeral.
For most of the 90-minute service, the crowd listened to nearly a dozen speakers, some fighting back tears and most struggling to get through their remarks. Afterward, most gathered outside Assembly Hall.
``I just don't know what to do without him,'' star receiver James Hardy said. ``He's been a father figure for me. He told me he had my back and he did at a difficult time in my life. It's the responsibility of the players on this team to make sure his legacy continues forever.''
The service included speeches from university officials, Hardy and co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic, who played for Hoeppner at Miami (Ohio). It also featured two video tributes, one capturing some of his favorite sayings: ``We have no problems, just opportunities'' or ``play 13,'' a reference to reaching a bowl game.
Some fans wore crimson shirts that read, ``Coach Hep Got Me,'' a play on Hoeppner's phrase, ``Coach Hep Wants You.''
Among those in attendance were singer John Mellencamp, outgoing Indiana president Adam Herbert, former women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp, former trustees president Fred Eichhorn and Miami (Ohio) athletic director Brad Bates, who hired Hoeppner as the RedHawks' coach in 1999.
Bates read a letter he wrote to two other ex-Miami coaches who have died in the past year, Northwestern's Randy Walker and Michigan's Bo Schembechler.
Jane Hoeppner often attended her husband's news conferences and stood with him on the sideline. She spoke of how she savored the time with her husband during his 18-month struggle, which included two brain operations and three medical leaves from the team.
Drew Hoeppner talked of how, like many children, he thought his father invincible. Daughter Amy Fox recalled lessons her children learned from their grandfather. Another daughter, Allison Balcam, choked away tears when describing her parents' relationship.
Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan, who hired Hoeppner in December 2004, drew laughs as he recounted his first job interview with Hoeppner.
``He'd come back from a Big Ten meeting and say 'You know what I did today? I spent the whole day with Joe Paterno. How cool is that?' ... His most endearing characteristic was his boyhood spirit,'' Greenspan said.
Hoeppner went 9-14 in two seasons at Indiana, but his energy and passion were paramount. Each speaker urged players to keep Hoeppner's legacy alive with his game-day message.
``Hoeppner still wants you,'' said former Indiana star Anthony Thompson, now a church pastor. ``I say to his players, Hep still wants you to play 13.''