Bloomington, Ind. – IU football coach Terry Hoeppner is hopeful he'll be back on the sidelines come fall.
That's the word coming from the IU Athletics Department, which issued a release Tuesday evening to update Hoeppner's status. A pair of brain surgeries and other related medical issues have forced the Hoosier head coach to take three leaves of absence from the program over the last 18 months, the most recent being during the recently-completed spring practice season.
Tuesday's statement should quiet some of the speculation about Hoeppner for the time being, but there's still plenty of questions that remain unanswered. Indications are Hoeppner is still at home while receiving medical treatment, and there was no mention of when he might resume handling his day-to-day duties.
"I continue to receive medical treatment and remain inspired to return to coaching when my health permits," Hoeppner said in the prepared statement. "I love Indiana University and Indiana football and will make decisions in the best interest of the program as I have always attempted to do. I will ask for your continued respect for the privacy of me and my family as I address these matters going forward."
While the statement was encouraging in that it suggested Hoeppner envisions returning to coach the team, there's nothing definitive in the statement, either. Admittedly, the vagueness of the release is likely a result of the uncertainty about Hoeppner's health situation.
Thanks to the staff he's put in place, Hoeppner's absence from spring practice had a negligible impact on the team's 15 practices, and Indiana appears poised to make a run at its first bowl appearance since 1993 this fall. The presence of Assistant Head Coach Bill Lynch has been invaluable as he's stepped in for Hoeppner three times and steadied the team and its players while Hoeppner has addressed his medical issues.
But as the uncertainty persists, there are some real areas of concern, most notably recruiting.
Indiana has already received verbal commitments from talented in-state recruits Marquelo Suel and Nick Sliger, and it appears to be in very good shape with a handful of other marquee players from the Hoosier state. But as the IU assistant coaches go on the road and into kids' homes, they figure to get plenty of questions in the coming months from recruits and their parents about Hoeppner - and rightfully so. While Hoeppner and the IU Athletics Department want the media and fans to respect his right to privacy, prospective student-athletes have legitimate concerns if he'll be back to coach them for the next four or five years.
It's the most delicate of situations, with no easy answers.
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