Bloomington, Ind. – If the IU coaching staff gets its way, honoring the memory of Coach Terry Hoeppner will start at 5 p.m. today.
That's when 105 players will make their way onto the IU practice fields for the first practice of fall camp. Whether it's a fifth-year senior like Adam McClurg or a true freshman such as Jeff Boyd, the players on this year's team have their sights set on earning a postseason bowl invitation as a salute of sorts to Hoeppner, who passed away in June following an 18-month battle with brain cancer.
To get that done, Indiana will need to win at least six games on the upcoming schedule, a win total that was last accomplished in Bloomington in 1994. It's easily the longest postseason drought of any team in the Big Ten, whose other 10 teams have all appeared in at least three bowl games since IU's last appearance.
But co-Defensive Coordinator Joe Palcic doesn't want to see the team focus all of its emotion and attention on gamedays and ultimately the finish line. Instead, he thinks that emotion would be better utilized on the practice field.
"We need to practice every day for Coach Hoeppner and put the work in," Palcic said. "Maybe use the emotion to put the work in, then when we go play games, maybe we need to settle down."
Hoeppner's replacement, Bill Lynch, concurs. In fact, the new IU head coach looks at the next 26 days as a separate entity, something that will be every bit as important to the team's success or failure as the gamedays themselves.
"Once we start camp, we have to win from Aug. 4 until the 31st," Lynch said. "That's a season to itself, and we have to do a great job there."
Palcic, Lynch and the entire coaching staff is well aware of the emotion that will surround the upcoming season. The Hoosiers came within one game of being bowl eligible a year ago, missing out on three chances to get that elusive sixth win in November. With Hoeppner's passing, everyone around the program has made a pledge to get IU back to the postseason for the first time since 1993 as a way to honor the work Hoeppner put in during his three seasons in Bloomington.
But Palcic thinks that emotion can be put to better use in the team's preparation for the season and its games. On gamedays, he thinks it can be a little counterproductive.
"It will be an emotional season, and it's our job as coaches to limit that a little bit," Palcic said. "That might get you through the first quarter, maybe the first couple of minutes of the game."
The Hoosiers are instead focused on getting through the next four months and returning to the postseason. Their quest will be aided by a favorable schedule, but the coaching staff still knows there will be plenty of challenges this year, both physically and emotionally.
"We owe it to (Hoeppner), to this program, and to this university to continue to play good football," said recently named Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada, "and to continue to build the program that he laid the foundation for."
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