Hoeppner getting back in the game

By The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.- Indiana’s Terry Hoeppner walked into his weekly news conference Tuesday and got right back to business.

He took off his hat and tried to talk about football, even if everyone else wanted to know about his health.

“I love coaching football games,” he said. “I enjoy the preparation, I enjoy the recruiting, but my passion is coaching football games, so it’s good to be back.”

Hoeppner temporarily turned over the reins of the Hoosiers to assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Bill Lynch two weeks ago after announcing he would undergo his second brain surgery since December. Doctors said they would remove a possibly recurrent tumor.

The prognosis: Hoeppner would miss two to four weeks.

But the resilient 59-year-old coach made sure his absence was on the shorter end. Hoeppner said he wasn’t taking pain medication, had no restrictions and that doctors gave him, his wife, Jane, and his family the best possible news.

“The surgery happened to be on Jane’s birthday, and so she got scar tissue for her birthday,” he said. “Right now, I’m good to go, and I’m ready to go.”

Aside from the new scar on the right side of his head, it appeared as if little had changed.

The major issues confronting Indiana – a quarterback controversy, questions about the Hoosiers’ top player, James Hardy, and a beleaguered ground game – were still front and center when Hoeppner returned Tuesday.

Even consecutive losses to Southern Illinois and Connecticut didn’t faze the usually optimistic coach.

“I came up with this great plan for this week,” Hoeppner said. “I told the guys ‘We’re going to coach better this week and you’re going to play better this week. We’re in the Big Ten now, so let’s go do it.”‘

Players welcomed the message but were more impressed by the messenger.

“It’s amazing to see him come back in two weeks,” said Hardy, the receiver who is also returning to the team this week after a two-game suspension. “Mine was minor compared to his. But I wanted to make sure my coach was all right. He’s more than a coach to me, he’s a friend.”

While doctors told Hoeppner to spend at least two weeks recovering, three days after surgery he attended the Southern Illinois game.