Hoeppner, Hardy Back With Team

Bloomington, Ind. – A couple of big pieces to the IU football puzzle are back in place. As the Hoosiers prepare for Saturday's Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, they do so with their head coach Terry Hoeppner and their biggest offensive playmaker James Hardy once again cleared to do their part...

Bloomington, Ind. – A couple of big pieces to the IU football puzzle are back in place.

As the Hoosiers prepare for Saturday's Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, they do so with their head coach Terry Hoeppner and their biggest offensive playmaker James Hardy once again cleared to do their part as IU tries to bring an end to a two-game losing streak.

Hoeppner's absence was for medical reasons following a second brain surgery Sept. 13. While the Hoosiers' head coach didn't directly answer what the findings were from that surgery, he did suggest that it was scar tissue that doctors removed when he joked that his wife, Jane, got "scar tissue for her birthday."

He returned to the team on Sunday – just 11 days after the surgery – and is obviously excited to be back on the football field.

"I enjoy the preparation, I enjoy recruiting, but my passion is being on the sidelines coaching football games," said Hoeppner, who has watched the last two games from the IU coaches box. "I haven't been able to do that in a couple of weeks."

While he was sidelined, Hoeppner said he was amazed by the outpouring of support from not only people around the IU program, but from around the country. He said he received notes from the likes of Hawaii Coach June Jones, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton and even had a dinner catered to his home last week courtesy Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White.

"That speaks volumes to me about how we care about each other, and we empathize with not only the demands of a season, but also getting thrown the big deuce, a curve ball, in the middle of the season," Hoeppner said.

Senior Will Meyers said Hoeppner's return will likely provide an emotional lift to a team that suffered a pair of seven-point losses at home to Southern Illinois and Connecticut in his absence.

"It's great to see him back," Meyers said. "He's our leader, he's our guy. Anytime you can get his enthusiasm and charisma back to help get us going, get us motivated is awesome."

After a one-week absence from his weekly Tuesday press conference Hoeppner was back today, and he wasn't wearing the baseball cap that he's generally been wearing since he underwent his first surgery last December. Not only was Hoeppner minus the cap, he said he'll also go into this week's game preparation without any restrictions from doctors regarding what he can and can't do.

"As I tell the team, don't be soft, but don't be stupid," Hoeppner said. "So along with my able assistant (wife Jane), I'll be smart with it."

While Hoeppner's return was the biggest piece of good news to the team, IU will also have Hardy available this weekend as well. Hardy's absence was due to "personal issues" that weren't revealed by Hardy or Hoeppner Tuesday, but Hardy is also pleased to once again be a part of the team.

"I'm just excited to be back," Hardy said. "The two weeks is over. Dealt with the personal issues, and now I'm back, hopefully we'll go into the Big Ten, get the victories and go to the bowl game."

Hoeppner said he was in regular contact with Hardy throughout his two-week suspension, and had him out to his home for a day as well. When Hardy entered Tuesday's press conference Hoeppner embraced him, obviously signaling the program has welcomed last year's leading receiver back with open arms.

"Sometimes young people…need to step aside," Hoeppner said. "In his case it was some personal issues that he and I met with talked with the other coaches. It was better for him to step aside for a couple of weeks.

"He's back. He's eager to get back with the team."

Both are back just in time for a Saturday encounter with a 3-1 Wisconsin team that went 3-0 in the non-conference before stumbling at Michigan 27-13 Saturday. It's a team with a veteran quarterback in John Stocco, an up-and-coming running back in P.J. Hill, and a defense that ranks 17th nationally in total defense.

That's a big challenge for an IU team that is trying to avoid its third straight loss in as many weeks at home.

"I came up with this plan, this great plan for this week (and) I revealed it to the team Sunday," Hoeppner said. "We're going to coach better this week, and you're going to play better this week. We're in the Big Ten, so let's go do it."


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