If there's one thing that Barry Alvarez has noticed about the first couple of games of the Terry Hoeppner era in Bloomington, it's that Indiana appears to have gotten the right man to rebuild the program.
It's not only the 3-0 record that has impressed the long-time Badger coach, who will be retiring at season's end after 16 years as the head coach in Madison. What he sees on film is a team that is buying what Hoeppner is selling.
"When you watch them on film, you see kids that have bought in," Alvarez said Monday. "They really believe in themselves and they believe in the system and they play really hard. I'm impressed with what he's done with that team in a short time."
Alvarez is also impressed with what Hoeppner has done away from the field as well. Hoeppner's first job upon arriving in town was to embark on a virtual day-to-day, town-to-town tour of the state to try to reconnect with an apathetic IU fan base. While there's still plenty of room for improvement, the 40,240 that turned out for Indiana's 38-14 win over Kentucky – IU's largest non-conference home crowd since 1997 – showed that the effort isn't going unrewarded.
"He's brought a positive and enthusiastic attitude," said Alvarez. "Terry is excited – it's the job he wanted.
"His enthusiasm is infectious around the state. They've increased season tickets, there's much more interest because it's a legitimate, sincere attitude he's bringing."
There's no question that Hoeppner has brought a passion that's been missing in Bloomington since the days of Bill Mallory in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also is well versed in the history of the IU program – both good and bad – which Alvarez sees as another huge plus.
"A lot of times, the individual really wants the job, understands the job, and understands the issues that come along with the job and is willing to address them, and feels very confident that he can win because he knows of the job," said Alvarez. "I think Terry fits that bill.
"Many times you see a guy take a job and the first thing they start doing is complaining about facilities or about this or they don't have that – that's the wrong guy. You want someone who really knows it and can get after the real issues and it in a positive way and have a plan to build it."
If there's anyone who should have a good feel for who a good fit is, it's probably Alvarez. The one-time Iowa and Notre Dame assistant coach came to Madison and inherited a team that had gone just 9-36 in its previous four seasons. After going 1-10 in his first season and 11-22 in his first three, Alvarez guided the Badgers to the first of its three Rose Bowl wins under him in 1993, and he's missed out on a bowl invitation just twice in the last 12 years.
Alvarez has compiled a 112-70-4 record at Wisconsin, and he's been coaching in the Big Ten longer than any other head coach in the conference.
Hoeppner, meanwhile, has said that's he's tried to study what Alvarez has done in Madison to see if there are some things he can emulate at Indiana. While some might consider that flattery for Alvarez, the Badger coach simply says that it makes sense.
"I think that's natural – I did the same thing," said Alvarez. "I saw what George Perles did (at Michigan State) and how he built his program… You take someone who took a program that is similar to what you're inheriting, see what they did, how they did it, what their plan and model was, and see how it fits your situation and try to implement it.
"That makes sense to do. You ‘re not going to go in and follow Michigan's plan, because you don't have anything in common with them, other than that you're playing the same sport."
Alvarez On IU's Rebuilding Project
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