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Indiana University football coach Terry Hoeppner died early yesterday morning from complications from a brain tumor after battling cancer for 18 months.
Hoeppner, who was 59, had been on medical leave from the program for the past four months.
The loss was felt by some from northwest Ohio. Ryne Robinson, a Toledo native now in the NFL who played for Hoeppner at Miami University, was saddened when he heard of his former coach's passing.
"It's hard to believe that he's gone now," Robinson said. "His charisma and his perspective he brought to the game was definitely special. He was always smiling when he was trying to be serious."
Hoeppner recruited Robinson out of Central Catholic and put him in the starting lineup his freshman year in 2003. That season, the RedHawks went 13-1, won the Mid-American Conference championship and finished the regular season ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll.
"It was unbelievable," Robinson said.
Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon coached against Hoeppner several times, including the 2003 MAC championship game, which Miami won 49-27 behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"He still had a lot to give to the sport of football," Brandon said. "It is just a shame."
Roethlisberger was recruited out of Findlay to play at Miami by Hoeppner. He called Hoeppner a role model.
"Coach Hoeppner has inspired me to be who I am today," he said in a statement. "He has been a second father, a teacher and a friend. He believed in me and I owe everything to him for where I am in life."
Hoeppner was hired in 2004 to rebuild Indiana's football program. He was part of the Miami football program for 19 seasons, including six as the head coach
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.
Robinson, now a rookie wide receiver with the Carolina Panthers, was disappointed when Hoeppner left Miami for Indiana.
"It was kind of hard for me because I would say I had a bond with him more than any other coaches we had," Robinson said. "He would pull me off to the side and talk to me like a father."
Hoeppner is the third former Miami coach to pass away in less than a year. Randy Walker, who coached at Northwestern and Miami, died in June, 2006. Bo Schembechler, the legendary Michigan coach, died the day before the second-ranked Wolverines' clash with No. 1 Ohio State last November. Schembechler was 40-17-3 as Miami's coach from 1963-68 before moving on to Michigan.
Hoeppner, who went 9-14 in two seasons at Indiana, 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.
Although competitors on the field, coaches from around the Big Ten released statements yesterday expressing their admiration for Hoeppner the coach and Hoeppner the man.
"Coach Hoeppner's untimely death is a loss for the game of football, for the Big Ten, Indiana University, for his wonderful family, and for the young people he touched. Coach Hep was a difference-maker throughout his career. He will be truly missed by his colleagues," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
"Terry Hoeppner was the embodiment of the very best qualities that are admirable in a coach. He was a man of integrity and passion; he loved his players, and he loved the game. He represented the highest ideals of intercollegiate athletics. His legacy will endure but his presence will be greatly missed," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
In December, 2005, a year after IU athletic director Rick Greenspan hired Hoeppner, doctors removed a tumor from his right temple. In September, a CT scan revealed another growth in the same area of Hoeppner's brain.
"Terry's fight was courageous and will serve as an inspiration to those who have known him," 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."
Jane Hoeppner said in a statement announcing Lynch's hiring that her husband was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He had been hospitalized last week, but he was expected to return home Friday.
Hoeppner is survived by his wife, three children - Amy, Allison, and Drew - and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Maureen Fulton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.