Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Hoosiers pursuing Hoeppner's 'Play 13' goal
By Mark Schlabach ESPN.com
CHICAGO -- It has been less than two months since Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner died after a courageous battle with a brain tumor.
On Sunday, the Hoosiers will open preseason camp in Bloomington, Ind., with the same lofty expectations Hoeppner put in place when he was hired from Miami, Ohio in 2004. Hoeppner's goals -- making Indiana a competitive program in the Big Ten Conference and reaching a bowl game for the first time since 1993 -- seem much more realistic now than when he arrived.
James Hardy and the Hoosiers are focused on reaching IU's first bowl game since 1993.
"It will be a time for us to come together," Hoosiers receiver James Hardy said. "We've been looking forward to this for a couple of weeks. When Sunday hits, it's time to start a new chapter. Coach Hoeppner will never be forgotten. It's the players' job to finish what he started."
New mentor Bill Lynch, a former coach at three Indiana schools (Butler, Ball State and DePauw), said the team will pursue Hoeppner's goal to "Play 13" games during the 2007 season. Lynch, who worked as Indiana's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator the past two seasons, said the team's seniors designed jersey patches and helmet stickers to honor Hoeppner.
"There is no question that the rallying cry this year is 'We want to play 13,'" Lynch said. "As coach Hoeppner always said, there are no limitations here."
Indiana finished 5-7 last season, losing its last three games to miss the postseason for the 13th consecutive season. Indiana returns eight starters on both offense and defense. Quarterback Kellen Lewis is back after throwing for 2,221 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season as a freshman. He also ran for 441 yards and five scores.
Hardy had 51 catches for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The 6-foot-7, 216-pounder spent two weeks in July working out with former Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson in Orlando. Hardy also has watched hours of film with Johnson, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
"I'm trying to be the best," Hardy said. "I've got to know what to do to be the best. Honestly, I look like a totally different player now."
Wolverines fire back at Harbaugh
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and his players wasted no time in firing back at Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback, who recently questioned his alma mater's academic programs for student-athletes.
During an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Harbaugh questioned whether Michigan players are getting a quality college education.
"Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there," Harbaugh told the Examiner. "But the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."
On Wednesday morning, Carr called Harbaugh's comments "elitist" and "arrogant."
"Do I think they're elitist? Yeah," Carr said, during an interview at the Big Ten Conference Kickoff. "Arrogant? Yes. Self-serving? Yes."
Jim Harbaugh's statements about a Michigan education had Mike Hart scratching his head.
Wolverines running back Mike Hart said he was stunned Harbaugh would make such comments about his alma mater. Harbaugh started three seasons at Michigan, leading the Wolverines to the 1987 Rose Bowl. He was named Big Ten player of the year and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting as a senior in 1986.
"That's a guy I have no respect for," Hart said. "You graduate from the University of Michigan, and you're going to talk about your school like that, a great university like we have? To say that we're not true student-athletes? I don't know if maybe he wants to coach here and he's mad because he didn't get a job."
Hart also questioned Harbaugh's decision to accept Michigan transfer Jason Forcier, the Wolverines' backup quarterback last season. Forcier left after starter Chad Henne returned for his senior season, and highly regarded freshman Ryan Mallett enrolled early.
"He says we don't have great student-athletes, but he just accepted one of our transfers," Hart said. "What kind of sense does that make? Obviously, he wants guys like us at his school. I don't know how he can say that. He's not a Michigan man. I wish he'd never played here."
Henne called Harbaugh's comments "disappointing."
"I've seen Tom Brady wear his [Michigan] letterman's jacket in the Patriots' locker room after a game," Henne said. "All of the [former lettermen] I've met have been great."
Hill slims down
Wisconsin tailback P.J. Hill, who ran for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman, has lost about 19 pounds. He underwent shoulder surgery in February and missed spring practice. Hill said he dropped his weight from 242 pounds to 223 by running and doing cardio workouts while he was sidelined. He also changed his diet.
"I'm feeling confident about where my body is at right now," Hill said.
Delaney: No expansion in near future
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said a published report suggesting the conference was looking to expand was incorrect.
"From the quotes out there, you might think the Big Ten is about to expand, when that is not the case," Delany said. "What I said was, every three to five years we look at expansion and we will continue to look at it. We haven't looked at the issue since we had the conversation with Notre Dame. It is not a front-burner issue."
Wednesday marked the first day of the NCAA's ban on text messaging recruits. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema sat in a hotel lobby Wednesday morning spinning his BlackBerry on a table.
"We can't text anymore, which is fine by me," Bielema said. "I just think overall we have a needy society now. Guys want to be loved and patted on the back. We don't do too much coddling. I might be screwing up, but we really don't go after guys if they need that. I tell guys if you get a text message from me, it's because I want to talk to you. I'm not going to text you every day to ask you how your day was and how your girlfriend is doing. If you're interested in football or academics, I'll talk to you about that. But I'm not going to talk to you just because you want to be loved."
Illinois coach Ron Zook, who made text messages a major part of his recruiting efforts, said the ban hadn't yet hit him.
"Not yet," Zook said. "I'm sure sometime this afternoon I'll think about it."
Big Ten coaches voted during the offseason on whether to add a bye week to their schedules. Traditionally, the conference teams have completed their regular seasons by Thanksgiving and don't play games in December.
Last season, Ohio State waited 51 days after its 42-39 win over Michigan to play Florida in the BCS title game. The Gators beat the Buckeyes 41-14 to win the national championship. Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel was against the bye week.
Tressell said his players voted unanimously against the proposal. "I think that's the last thing you'd hear from our players -- that [the long layoff] was the reason we didn't perform [against Florida]," Tressel said.
• Carr said junior receiver Adrian Arrington, who caught 40 passes for 544 yards and eight touchdowns last season, has been reinstated to the team. Arrington was suspended from participating in spring practice, then had to run steps in Michigan Stadium at 6 a.m. for 60 consecutive days. "Adrian has proven to me that he wants to be at Michigan, and he's willing to do all of the things I have asked him to do," Carr said.
• Offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr., one of Michigan State's incoming freshmen, underwent 14 hours of surgery Monday to remove a cancerous tumor. New Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Ray still hopes to play for the Spartans. "From the day he knew he had this, to the day he went into surgery, he has been nothing but positive about the final outcome and that he will play football again," Dantonio said. "He's going to try and come to campus and go to school here in September, but he may back it up to January. He wants to play football again. It may be a year, it may be a year and a half, it may be two years. The attitude he has displayed throughout the entire process has been incredible."
• Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who is entering his 42nd season coaching the Nittany Lions, once again said he's not ready to retire. "The only time it bothers me is when people decide where I should go," Paterno said. "It's all pure speculation. I'm healthy now and I don't bother with what people think. It's kind of flattering that so many people are interested in what I do. It doesn't bother me one way or the other. I don't pay any attention to it."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.