Josiah Sears is more than five years removed from the day he and his Indiana University teammates received word that their coach was gone.
Terry Hoeppner, a Franklin College graduate and long-awaited pillar of hope for a Hoosiers football program mired in generations of mostly disappointment, had lost a spirited battle against brain cancer two months short of his 60th birthday.
Indiana players were in the midst of conditioning drills when then-interim coach Bill Lynch drove to Memorial Stadium on the warm June day to deliver the news. Streaks of perspiration soon blended with tears on the faces of many young men, the Hoosiers’ dependable fullback and team captain among them.
“The thing I appreciated most about coach Hoeppner was his genuineness. What you saw on television is the same as he was in person,” remembered Sears, 27, in his fifth season as an assistant football coach at Franklin College, his mentor’s old stomping grounds both as a player (1966-69) and defensive coordinator (1980-85).