Bloomington, Ind. – June 19th, 2007, will be a day to be remembered in IU football.
As members of the IU football team gathered at Memorial Stadium for an early morning run, they learned their coach, Terry Hoeppner, had taken a turn for the worse. He was back in the hospital, just four days removed from IU's announcement that his on-going battle with brain cancer would force him to miss the entire 2007 season.
By the time Tuesday morning's workout ended, the players received the news they probably knew was coming, but held out hope they wouldn't have to hear – Hoeppner had passed away at 6:50 a.m. with his family at his side. He was only 59 years old.
Coaches, players and administrators spent the subsequent hours reflecting on Hoeppner's contributions to the game, their universities as well as their individual lives, and echoed a similar sentiment - a special person had passed. While there are many good people in college football, they don't come any better than Hoeppner.
June 19th will be a day to remember because Indiana Football lost its leader, a man whose enthusiasm and passion for his program, his university and his players was, if not unequalled, certainly unsurpassed in the game of college football.
"Obviously a great loss of one heck of a guy," said Bill Lynch, who takes over for Hoeppner as IU's head coach. "We all lost a great friend as well as what he brought to Indiana football and the whole state."
June 19th will also be a day to be remembered because of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Memorial Stadium North End Zone Project, a major part of IU's $55 million facility enhancement plan that will help bring the Hoosiers' football facilities up to par with its Big Ten counterparts.
At the Hoeppner family's request, the ceremony went on as scheduled despite the news about Hoeppner's passing earlier that day. Perhaps even more remarkable was the fact his wife, Jane, and the rest of the family was in attendance for an event that is so critical to fulfilling Hoeppner's vision for the IU program.
The facility upgrades – which will include enclosing the north end of Memorial Stadium as well as a new state-of-the-art weight facility - was a must-have for the future of IU football in the mind of Hoeppner. That's why he appeared before the Board of Trustees last fall, just days after undergoing his second brain surgery.
"I thought it was almost poetic that he came out of the hospital shortly after his surgery to help us get the approval for these projects and Jane and her family walked in (today) with that same Hoeppner-esque way of surprising everyone, and I love 'em for that," said IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan.
The significance of the groundbreaking wasn't lost on the players, who know how important it is to the future of a program that Hoeppner loved so much.
"I'd like to thank Coach Hep and his family for loving this state, school and program and each member of our team so much and for dreaming even bigger for us than we can possibly dream for ourselves," said Josiah Sears.
June 19th will be a day to be remembered with both fondness and heartbreak. Few days in the more than 100 years of Hoosier football have been more significant to its prospects for future success, but few have delivered such devastating and crushing news as well.
"It's a dramatic day for us, obviously as mixed emotions as the human spirit can deal with," Greenspan said.
For anyone that knew Hoeppner, there's little doubt he'd want Hoosier fans to focus on the positive when it comes to June 19th and be excited about the possibilities for the future.
Because that's what Terry Hoeppner was all about.
"I know there are probably some that couldn't distinguish his energy and enthusiasm and positive outlook from perhaps a Pollyannish perspective," Greenspan said. "I loved it. I thought it was what we needed. I though it's what we sought several years ago and I was very candid about him when we talked about taking this position that we needed a partner."
Hoeppner was that. And a whole lot more.
DECKER: A Day to Remember
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