Thousands gather at Assembly Hall to remember Hoeppner's life

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Jane Hoeppner wanted her husband to
have one last game day.

So players dressed in their white jerseys and red sweat pants,
met at Assembly Hall and even got a pep talk from the coach's wife.
But when Terry Hoeppner couldn't lead them across the parking lot
to the football stadium, his spirit did.

Players, coaches, friends and colleagues gathered Saturday for a
farewell to the coach who spent two seasons reinvigorating Indiana
football. Hoeppner, 59, died Tuesday from complications of a brain

"I want you all to know how genuine and how sincere his love
and commitment to this place was," the coach's wife said. "It was
just magical. This is the start of something great and don't let
anything get in the way of it. You are going to be a team, and we
are going to go to a bowl game and coach Hoeppner will be there
with us."

A crowd of several thousand showed for Saturday's public
memorial service. The family had a private funeral.

For most of the 90-minute service, the crowd listened to nearly
a dozen speakers, some fighting back tears and most struggling to
get through their remarks. Afterward, most gathered outside
Assembly Hall.

"I just don't know what to do without him," star receiver
James Hardy said. "He's been a father figure for me. He told me he
had my back and he did at a difficult time in my life. It's the
responsibility of the players on this team to make sure his legacy
continues forever."

The service included speeches from university officials, Hardy
and co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic, who played for Hoeppner at
Miami (Ohio). It also featured two video tributes, one capturing
some of his favorite sayings: "We have no problems, just
opportunities" or "play 13," a reference to reaching a bowl

Some fans wore crimson shirts that read, "Coach Hep Got Me," a
play on Hoeppner's phrase, "Coach Hep Wants You."

Among those in attendance were singer John Mellencamp, outgoing
Indiana president Adam Herbert, former women's basketball coach
Sharon Versyp, former trustees president Fred Eichhorn and Miami
(Ohio) athletic director Brad Bates, who hired Hoeppner as the
RedHawks' coach in 1999.

Bates read a letter he wrote to two other ex-Miami coaches who
have died in the past year, Northwestern's Randy Walker and
Michigan's Bo Schembechler.

Jane Hoeppner often attended her husband's news conferences and
stood with him on the sideline. She spoke of how she savored the
time with her husband during his 18-month struggle, which included
two brain operations and three medical leaves from the team.

Drew Hoeppner talked of how, like many children, he thought his
father invincible. Daughter Amy Fox recalled lessons her children
learned from their grandfather. Another daughter, Allison Balcam,
choked away tears when describing her parents' relationship.

Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan, who hired Hoeppner in
December 2004, drew laughs as he recounted his first job interview
with Hoeppner.

"He'd come back from a Big Ten meeting and say 'You know what I
did today? I spent the whole day with Joe Paterno. How cool is
that?' ... His most endearing characteristic was his boyhood
spirit," Greenspan said.

Hoeppner went 9-14 in two seasons at Indiana, but his energy and
passion were paramount. Each speaker urged players to keep
Hoeppner's legacy alive with his game-day message.

"Hoeppner still wants you," said former Indiana star Anthony
Thompson, now a church pastor. "I say to his players, Hep still
wants you to play 13."