Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Indiana players inspired by coach Hoeppner's fight
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Interim coach Bill Lynch told his
Indiana players Wednesday afternoon that head coach Terry Hoeppner
was resting after undergoing about two hours of brain surgery.
The Hoosiers honored Hoeppner with a spirited practice as they
prepare to face Southern Illinois at home Saturday.
"We tried to focus on football, that's what coach Hep wanted us
to do," quarterback Blake Powers said. "As a team we had to come
Hoeppner was expected to miss two to four weeks after having
surgery to remove a possible tumor from the right side of his brain
Wednesday morning. Doctors were uncertain what caused the growth
that was found during a routine MRI exam Friday.
It was the second time in less than nine months that Hoeppner
had the procedure. In December, he had surgery to remove a tumor
from his right temple.
About 15 minutes before the team's meeting, Lynch got the news
Indiana's coaches and players were waiting for.
"Coach Hoeppner came through this morning's surgery well and is
resting comfortably with his family at his side," IU athletic
director Rick Greenspan said at the Hoosiers' practice Wednesday.
"We are eager to assist the Hoeppners in any way we can and look
forward to having Terry back on the Indiana sidelines."
Before and after Tuesday's practice, Hoeppner had urged his
players not to get distracted by the surgery, which he had termed
elective and outpatient.
Some said that wouldn't be easy.
"I'm not going to put it in the back of my mind. I'm going to
use it to get excited, to play for coach Hep," defensive end Kenny
Kendal said. "We're going to keep it up and use it to get excited
because he's going to be watching, he's going to want us to win."
On Wednesday they responded with what Lynch described as a
Those outside the program also kept Hoeppner in their thoughts.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played
for Hoeppner at Miami of Ohio and is a close friend, said the two
had talked before Wednesday's surgery.
"He's like a father to me. I love him to death,"
Roethlisberger said. "I know he'll be OK because he's a fighter
and a competitor. The way he made it out to me, it's not as serious
as everyone's making it out to be. He'll be OK. He's a fighter."
If Hoeppner had his way, he might do more than watch.
When asked whether he would coach from his bed, Hoeppner smiled
and responded, jokingly, that he would keep reporters apprised of
Lynch didn't brush it off so quickly.
"One of the things we talked about was there would be a guy
watching tape Saturday or Sunday, whenever he gets it, and he'll be
grading them," Lynch said. "He might call during the game, too, I
Players expressed confidence in Lynch, who has 14 years of head
"He [Hoeppner] is our team captain, and we've got coach Lynch
stepping in, who is also a head coach coaching next to a head
coach," receiver Lance Bennett said. "I feel everybody has to
step their role up."
Greenspan took on the role of supporter at Tuesday's news
conference announcing the surgery. He offered prayers for Hoeppner
and his family and urged Hoosiers fans to do the same. Afterward,
Greenspan, who often cites the importance of rebuilding an Indiana
program that hasn't been to a bowl game since 1993, made his
"Football is a huge part of what we do, but it's not who we
are," he said. "We talk about dealing with adversity and that
varies in significance. Really, what we want to do first and
foremost, is what we can for Terry and his family."