Checking in with ... Bill Lynch, Part I

August, 21, 2008
8/21/08
8:24
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Bill Lynch might not have a catalog of catchphrases or the unique charisma that made the late Terry Hoeppner such a rare breed, but Lynch shares one important thing with the man he succeeded as Indiana's head coach. This is his dream job.

Ohio is the national breeding ground for college coaches, but both Lynch and Hoeppner grew up next door in Indiana. Lynch has spent almost his entire career coaching in his home state, bouncing from Butler to Ball State to Indiana to Ball State to DePauw and finally back to Indiana. Lynch became the Hoosiers' head coach under tragic circumstances following Hoeppner's death in June 2007, but he helped to honor his friend by guiding Indiana to its first bowl appearance since 1993. For pulling off one of the most impressive and underrated coaching jobs in the country, Lynch was rewarded with the title of permanent head coach and given a contract through June 2012. 

After Wednesday's practice, I talked with Lynch over a couple of Gatorades (orange flavor). Here's what he had to say about Hoeppner, the quarterback competition and the need to take the program one step further.

Last year was somewhat stable, but do you have a greater sense of ownership now, conducting this camp?

Bill Lynch: It's kind of a continuation of last year. I'm very appreciative of [athletic director] Rick Greenspan and the president to make a quick decision as soon as the season was over. That was very important in terms of continuity and recruiting and with our players. It's a unique group. This staff, all except for one, came at the same time. They've been here, so the philosophy and the approach and the expectations have stayed the same, which I think is really important in a program like ours. When you build a program, you want your older guys to pass down to the younger guys, 'This is what we do here.' When you have constant turnover, the expectations are always up in the air. So that's really important. What we do is so similar. My personality is different than Hep's. Hep was such a unique and charismatic guy, and I hope I'm smart enough not to try to take on his personality because he was Hep. That's what made him such a beloved guy. There's probably little changes or variations based on my background or experiences that are probably pretty subtle.

Hep made no secret about the fact that this was his dream job. Obviously, you didn't want it under these circumstances, but is it the same for you?

BL: Oh, yeah. I would never want it under these circumstances. When I worked here in the early 90s for coach [Bill] Mallory -- I grew up in Indianapolis and coached all around the state and have always been a big fan -- '93 and '94, up until last year, those were the last two winning seasons and bowl appearances, all of that. But I really took on a great appreciation for the university and the belief that we can win in football here. That's the important thing. Coach Mallory was the guy that never listened to anybody saying, 'You can't win in football at Indiana.' He didn't listen to it, and when I worked for him, he had a great feel for that. Hep and I have been friends and I always had such great respect for him. He really had the same approach and attitude that coach Mallory had. To be able to come and work here, it is a dream job.

Did you envision being a head coach again in your career after Ball State [37-53 overall record]?

BL: [Shakes head] You never know what's around the corner. That's why you would never want it under these circumstances. But I'm grateful to be here and really enjoy working with the kids in the program. 

You've talked about win 13 as a goal for this year. For so many guys, having that connection to Hep, does that help?

BL: Yeah, and really going back, the Play 13 [motto] was certainly Hep's and it took on a life of its own because of the tragedy a year ago. But our kids know that the goal is to keep moving up. We want to become a team that's competing for the Big Ten championship. We want to be a team that's respected on a national level. We went to a bowl game. That was the first step, and that was always the first step to Hep. Now we know that the next step is we've got to go to a bowl and we've got to win a bowl game. Perhaps we put limitations on ourselves last year. It was an emotional year and there were a lot of things, but there was such a rallying cry to play 13 that even though we talked and talked, when we looked back at it after the bowl game, we probably realized getting there was the goal. The game itself [a 49-33 loss] taught us that if you want to become a team that's thought of on a national level and play with people all across the country, you've got to compete every day. Maybe we reached the goal to soon last year. That's where the 'Win the 13th' comes about. It's not good enough to get to a bowl game. 

Has anything about the quarterback competition surprised you?

BL: It hasn't to us. As visitors have come, it has. The biggest thing is visitors come and they say [Ben] Chappell's really pretty good. And it's like they thought that we didn't feel that way. He was a solid 2 [backup] last year and then, in the spring, when he got the chance to run the show the whole time, he had a great spring. Even though we're not working with him in the summer, we knew he was running the show until Kellen [Lewis] came back. We know Kellen's an outstanding player and a great playmaker and has proven it on the field, on Saturdays, for a year and a half. But Ben is a really competitive quarterback. I think the quarterback position is different. I don't think the quarterback has to prove it to the coach. I don't think he has to prove it to the fans or the media. He's got to prove it to his teammates. They've got to believe in him. The players have to believe in that guy. And obviously, they believe in Kellen. He's proven it. He's earned that. But Ben now has that, and that's what is such a great situation for us. We've got two guys. Whoever runs on the field, the players are going to run out there feeling, 'We're going to be successful.'

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?