BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner died Tuesday of complications from a brain tumor. He was 59.
Hoeppner, who had two brain surgeries in the past 18 months, spent the last four months on medical leave. He died at 6:50 a.m. at Bloomington Hospital with his family at his side, school spokesman J.D. Campbell said.
"Terry's fight was courageous and will serve as an inspiration to those who have known him," Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan said in a statement. "This is a truly sad day for our community and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the Hoeppner family and to those whose lives he has touched."
Indiana University team physician Dr. Larry Rink confirmed in the statement that Hoeppner was being treated for the brain tumor over the past 18 months. During Hoeppner's illness the school released few details of the nature of his condition or his treatment.
Hoeppner, who went 9-14 in two seasons, had taken three medical leaves since December 2005. He hadn't been seen publicly since late February. Late last week, the school said assistant Bill Lynch would replace him as coach for the 2007 season.
In December 2005, doctors removed a tumor from his right temple a year after Greenspan hired Hoeppner.
His wife, Jane, said in a statement announcing Lynch's hiring that her husband was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He had been hospitalized last week, but was expected to return home Friday.
In September, a CT scan revealed another growth in the same area of Hoeppner's brain.
Hoeppner was hired in 2004 to rebuild Indiana's football program. He soon nicknamed the Hoosiers' home field "The Rock" and then had the giant limestone boulder added to Memorial Stadium to reinforce the message.
"We came to know Terry as a great leader of young men and an important member of the Big Ten coaching community. He will be truly missed," Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said in a statement.
A native of northeastern Indiana, Hoeppner grew up a Hoosiers fan, attended college at Franklin, near Indianapolis, and coached on the prep level in his home state.
In eight seasons as a head coach, six at Miami (Ohio), Hoeppner was 57-39, and he took Miami to consecutive bowl games in 2003 and 2004.
Even after spending 19 seasons as an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), Hoeppner still had a fondness for the Hoosiers, and it didn't take long for the fans to embrace him.
He also was respected by intrastate rival Purdue coach Joe Tiller. Hoeppner's team lost both games he coached against the Boilermakers.
"I know Hep was a fierce competitor, and he battled an unforgiving disease," Tiller said in a statement. "We hope they (his family) find comfort in knowing that he is no longer in pain and is in a much better place."
After the September surgery, the energetic Hoeppner, whom players often called younger than his age, returned sooner than expected. Three days after surgery, he sneaked into Indiana's coaching box at Memorial Stadium and watched the Hoosiers lose to Division I-AA Southern Illinois. Two weeks later, he resumed coaching. The Hoosiers finished 5-7, missing being bowl eligible by one game.
Hoeppner later inferred that test results from the second surgery showed what doctors removed was only scar tissue, not cancerous, and university officials never acknowledged Hoeppner had been suffering from a terminal illness.
Hoeppner continued making public appearances until late February. In March, he announced he was skipping spring practice to regain his "energy and strength."
Hoeppner is survived by his wife, three children — Amy, Allison and Drew — and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.