We were sitting at the training table, Indiana football coach Bill Lynch pointing a visitor toward the sandwich line, when about half a dozen athletic-looking young women approached the table. They wore Cheshire smiles, the kind of smiles daughters whip out whenever they want something from daddy. "We just wanted you to know that our volleyball team is all going to be supporting you guys against Indiana State,'' the unofficial team spokeswoman told Lynch. "And we were hoping your team could come out and support us (at home Oct. 17) against Purdue.''
Lynch eyed his sandwich, then looked at the young ladies."What day is that?" "A Wednesday," she answered.Lynch said, "Let me check our schedule and see if it's something we can do." He wasn't short with them, very nice and sociable and to the point. But that moment illustrated the fundamental difference between the Hoosiers' late coach, Terry Hoeppner, and the good man replacing him, Bill Lynch. If that had been Hoeppner, it would have turned into a pep rally. Hoeppner would have called his secretary to get a schedule. The young women would have joined us for lunch or
at least conversation. Before long, everybody would be singing the IU fight song before walking off, arm in arm, to Memorial Stadium to watch the Hoosiers football team play its public scrimmage on Saturday. Hoeppner was that rare sports personality who had IT, that charisma, that ability to walk into a room and make it seem smaller because of his oversized presence.
The Indiana people saw so much of the buzz and the salesman (Hoeppner was), but they never really got to see the great coach that he is. . . . If I'm going to put any stamp on this program, I want it to be for people to understand just how great a coach he was and what he's been building here the last two years.'' Year three is a restless time for rebuilding programs. Fans expect to see progress in year three.
Clearly, the illness and death of Hoeppner have nullified any standard program timeline, but as I have said before, salesmanship only goes so far. Although he is gone, Hoeppner increased interest in IU football and established a solid foundation within the program. Lynch isn't Hoeppner, and doesn't have to be. While Hoeppner may be best remembered for his persona, he was a good coach. Had he lived, and had he gone 4-20 in 2008 and 2009, he would have been under pressure.