Some decent IU coverage, unsurprisingly focused on the team's reaction to the death of Terry Hoeppner, here, here, and here, among other places . Here's some particularly poignant stuff from James Hardy (via the Gary Post Tribune). It sounds like his background was rougher than I realized.
Hoeppner's death impacted all-Big Ten receiver James Hardy really hard. "They had a great relationship," Lynch notes, stopping just short of calling Hoeppner a father-figure. "They trusted each other and Hep helped him through some tough times a year or so ago."
Hardy still refers to Hoeppner as IU's leader. "I've been pretty much on my own since I was 13," he says. "Coach Hep used to say, 'Have a plan and stick to it.' " The 6-7 junior's plan is to help underprivileged kids. Having abandoned his flirtation with basketball -- he dropped out after appearing in 23 games during the 2004-05 season -- Hardy has narrowed his focus. By concentrating on football during the offseason Hardy can refine his considerable talent. Now he's spending more time in the weight room to boost his already unlimited potential. "I'm working on my weaknesses," says Hardy, who has racked up 112 receptions, 20 for touchdowns, in two years. "I'm like a sponge." Somewhere, Hoeppner is soaking it up.
Also, expanding a bit on my discussion of the Teddy Greenstein article from day one of the media days, am I imagining things, or was there a discussion a few months ago about moving the last week of Big Ten games not to Thanksgiving weekend, but the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend (i.e., nine days after Thanksgiving Day)? I haven't been able to find anything on that issue, but I'll keep looking. It seems to me that such a move would be a nice solution and a compromise between those who want a bye week and those who want to allow the players to go home for Thanksgiving. That is, of course, the weekend of the conference championship games, but the last week of Big Ten games, particularly the crown jewel, Michigan-OSU, typically are day games, so I can't see a huge television conflict. Such an arrangement would result in two bye weeks, actually (instead of having 12 weekends to play 12 games, teams would have 14 weekends to play with). I presume that the Big Ten would move its conference schedule back a week, such that the eighth week of games (there are nine weeks to the Big Ten season) occurred the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Schools could approach it in a variety of ways: teams that wanted to play on Thanksgiving weekend could schedule a nonconference game for that day and take two by weeks later in the season. Others could take one bye during the heart of the season and one on Thanksgiving weekend. Others could elect to start the season a week later instead of on Labor Day weekend. I can see the merits of both sides. Being home for Thanksgiving is nice (still, is this feature giving the Big Ten a recruiting advantage over the conferences that play over Thanksgiving break? I doubt it). Playing 12 weeks in a row is grueling. Also, playing on Thanksgiving weekend is no fun. Certainly, schools like OSU and Michigan and Penn State will continue to fill their stadiums no matter what. As for IU, in the last 15 years I can recall two years, 1995 and 2001, when the Big Ten played games after Thanksgiving. Those two Bucket games, both in Bloomington, were the only poorly attended Bucket games I have seen. Even if well-attended, such scheduling affects students negatively, athletes and non-athletes alike, particularly those from afar. Should a New Jersey kid who is a freshman at Michigan or IU or Iowa have to decide between seeing his family on Thanksgiving or staying around to see the biggest rivalry game of the year? I do think the first weekend of December is the way to go. Plus, that may be the only way to see my dream come true--the Old Oaken Bucket game in the snow!