Matt Mattucci, a good friend of the site, was the football beat writer at the Indiana Daily Student during Terry Hoeppner’s first season as Indiana’s head coach. Matt got to know the coach pretty well during that season. So we asked if he would be good enough to write something about Coach Hep for us. He beautifully summed up what Coach Hep meant (and still means) to Indiana University and its fans. His words follow.
In two short years, Terry Hoeppner created an incredible legacy at Indiana University – one that future coaches will likely never come close to matching. And how could they? Sure, the next IU coach to win a bowl game will go down in Hoosier lore as being a savior to the program. But in the end, it will all come back to Terry Hoeppner.
Right now as I write, ground is being broken on the new stadium, one that Coach Hep so determinedly pushed for building. Because of him, the Hoosiers will have a new stadium to play in during the coming years and will be able to put more fans in the seats. And those fans are out there, trust me – Coach Hep proved that. Ticket sales skyrocketed during the past few years, but the fans haven’t kept up their end of the bargain. Hep put the best product he possibly could out onto that football field, and sadly, IU football fans didn’t appreciate it as much as they should have.
So allow me to steal one of Coach Hep’s catch phrases here: I want you to forget about his subpar records with the Hoosiers and IU falling short of a bowl game. I want you to forget about the past and focus on the present, which sadly does not include one Terry Hoeppner as the coach of the Hoosiers. But most importantly, I want you to remember – remember “The Walk” and how intense of an ovation Coach Hep and the players received before every home game. Remember “The Rock” and how Hep and the boys would walk out onto the Memorial Stadium field, arms interlocked, and touch the huge chunk of limestone before the start of the game. And just remember and celebrate Hep, who was truly a living legend in his short time at Indiana University.
I covered the IU football team for the IU student newspaper in 2005 and always had a hard time maintaining my objectivity. Most games I wanted to stand up in that press box and applaud, and cheer on the man that I so admired. He exemplified courage and determination and held such a deep passion and love for the game he coached. Above all, he could connect with people. One handshake or even just a nod made you feel as though you’d known him for years – so imagine how being able to sit down and interview the man felt.
Like so many other IU students, Coach Hep certainly got me.