Only twice in the summer of 2007 did my phone turn off. I learned quickly never to let it die for any length of time again.
Five years ago today, I was the editor-in-chief of the Indiana Daily Student. We had on the previous day finished our Monday issue (the IDS publishes Mondays and Thursdays in the summer), with front-page stories about a jazz festival in town, about a new seatbelt law and about changes to OneStart. Above the fold of the paper, our banner story headline read: “Hoeppner will not return to football team in 2007.”
We were also, for the second time that summer, thinking about how to best handle the death of a beloved campus figure.
The first time my phone died that summer, I was visiting my mother in Lafayette. It was June 3, a Sunday, and I had left my charger at home. I woke up later than intended, in part because the phone was dead, and turned on my computer to a forwarded email and a panicked editorial staff. I haven’t made the drive down I-65 to State Route 37 faster than I did that day.
Dave Adams, our Student Media Director and a man most of us simply called “Dadams,” had died unexpectedly the night before. What followed were several trying days, ones I’m not sure most of us will ever forget. That Sunday night stands as the only moment in my entire career that left me with the distinct feeling that I just didn’t want to come back to work the next day.
I’m reminded of that day today, because it was just two weeks later that we were sitting in our newsroom, entirely too experienced in covering what we were unfortunately about to.
This all comes back today, thanks to an excellent story from Alex McCarthy, who covered IU football for the IDS last season. You can read that story, which speaks to Jane Hoeppner, James Hardy and Kevin Wilson about Terry Hoeppner’s legacy, here.
I was a freshman during Hoeppner’s first season in Bloomington, 2005.
At that point, Indiana football was something of a culture shock to me — I had been born and raised in SEC football country, where eight of the conference’s (then) 12 stadiums hold 76,000 or more, and where most of those seats are always full on at least six Saturdays in the fall. The concept of a school without a religiously followed football program was mostly foreign to me.
Hoeppner’s resume suggested he deserved his new job, and he made some level of sense for a program that had already tried the hot assistant route with Cam Cameron and the retread coach in Gerry DiNardo. Hoeppner deserved an obvious promotion from a MAC school to a Big Ten program, and so he was also a departure from the recent past.
But what Hoeppner really brought to Indiana that was so distinct, I think, was his enthusiasm. If you’ll forgive a touch of bluntness, Indiana does not have the kind of history to overly excite new coaches, nor much cause for grand, immediate expectation when a fresh face is hired.
But the man who wanted people to know him as Coach Hep had enthusiasm in extensive supply. Born in Woodburn and himself an alumnus of Franklin College, he genuinely seemed thrilled to be where he was.
When confronted with anyone who wanted to lampoon his zeal, he invited them to take a closer look at his work, to decide for themselves. He boldly predicted Indiana would play for a Rose Bowl by 2009, though he privately told at least one reporter I later talked to that he wasn’t sure he would be in Bloomington to see it.
I’m not sure Hoeppner ever meant for that comment to sound so prescient, but that Monday after noon five years ago, we were starting to realize it likely would be. Hoeppner had been in the hospital recently at that time, and we were privately told by people we trusted that we should prepare for the sad news that would break in the early morning hours of the next day.
My phone died again that night, after coming loose from its charger without my realizing it. I had seven voicemails when I turned it back on, and so the lesson was finally taken.
I think about that summer often, and about the loss of two people who had a sweeping impact on so many lives. In McCarthy’s story, Hardy says he has a tattoo commemorating Hoeppner — I don’t know that any of us ever did the same for Dave, but he nonetheless touched our lives in much the same way.
In his story, McCarthy points to the North End Zone facility as Hoeppner’s great legacy, a standing testament to his commitment to bettering his program. Indeed, it was Hoeppner who drove the planning, fundraising and eventually construction of the additions to Memorial Stadium. On the day he died, Indiana held the groundbreaking ceremony for the building itself.
Dave never built buildings. His work was far less simply measured.
Dave, not unlike Hoeppner probably, built people. He sparked careers, engendered ambition and fostered confidence. There wasn’t any student he worked with who couldn’t count on a brilliantly written cover letter from Dave, even if it was needed within a matter of hours. We all carry pieces of what we learned from him with us today, that I feel confident in saying about myself and all my old coworkers.
That, I think, is how best to remember men like that. Coach Hep and Dave were entirely deserving of the love and respect afforded them for their respective careers of hard work, and of fond remembrance from all of us. On this day — probably on most days — they are both greatly missed.