Indiana coach Hoeppner to undergo brain surgery

Updated: September 13, 2006, 8:35 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Terry Hoeppner walked into the room, looked around at the long faces and broke the silence by blowing his whistle.

"Come on guys, let's go, wake up in here," he shouted.

It was typical Hoeppner -- light and optimistic on a day most others would consider grim.

Hoeppner announced he would have brain surgery Wednesday morning in Bloomington and would miss the next two to four weeks of Indiana's season. It's the second time in less than nine months Hoeppner has needed the procedure, although doctors were uncertain whether the new growth is a recurrence of the tumor that was removed in December.

Assistant head coach Bill Lynch will replace Hoeppner on an interim basis.

Hoeppner said he and his family are hoping for the best -- that it's simply scar tissue.

"That's what our prayer is," Hoeppner said Tuesday, as his wife, Jane, watched from the front row. "These tests, as I've come to find out, give them a pretty good indication of whether it's enough of a possibility either way. We don't want to sit around and see what it is three to six months from now."

He still tried to keep the mood light.

At times, the 59-year-old Hoosiers coach drew laughter with his jokes. At other times, he poked fun at himself, once even pointing to his head so photographers could get a good shot. Through it all, though, he demonstrated the optimism that prompted Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan to hire him.

"Hey, we're all day to day," he said. "You know, it's two weeks to the Big Ten season. That's my goal."

Hoeppner has had periodic checkups and scans since the first surgery.

On Friday, he had another MRI. Doctors got the results back over the weekend, but Hoeppner said they waited to meet with him until Monday -- after the Hoosiers rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Ball State 24-23, their biggest comeback since 2002.

Neurosurgeon Marshall Poor said in a written statement there was evidence of a possible recurrent tumor. Initially, Hoeppner wanted to wait until after the season to have surgery, but doctors urged him to act sooner.

"It made sense to get it done ASAP," he said.

He hopes to be back on the sideline for the Hoosiers' Big Ten opener against Wisconsin on Sept. 30, but that decision will rest with the doctors.

"My dad went through this seven, eight years," offensive lineman Justin Frye said. "From an insider's aspect, I know a lot what they're going through but at the same time, I don't."

Among those attending the news conference included Hoeppner's assistants and a few boosters including rock star John Mellencamp, a longtime supporter of Hoosiers athletics.

"I'm here to support him," Mellencamp said. "He's a good guy."

Since having surgery last winter, and taking time off the recruiting trail, Hoeppner appeared to be doing well.

Even Tuesday, Hoeppner said he felt good -- a vast difference from the headaches that first prompted him to seek medical treatment in December.

The Hoosiers were 4-7 in Hoeppner's first season and are 2-0 for the third straight year. Hoeppner is 54-32 in seven-plus seasons as a head coach.

Lynch has an overall record of 81-67-3 in 14 seasons as a head coach, including eight years at Ball State.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press