By Austin Lee, AlbersAngle.com Football Reporter
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There is some major noise coming from 17th Street.
Yes, I know Memorial Stadium is under construction. But, I’m not talking about that noise. I’m not talking about the construction of the South End Zone.
I’m talking about the other construction; the construction that’s been taking place for the last 13 years. No, no, not the construction on Interstate-37 between Bloomington and Martinsville.
I’m talking about the construction going on inside Memorial Stadium. More directly, I’m talking about the construction of the Indiana University football program. The construction that started December 17, 2004 when Indiana formally announced the hiring of its 26th head football coach, Terry Hoeppner.
Coach Hep had an instant impact on the program and its fan base. The job was no small task; it demanded patience and, equally important, a visionary to be at the helm. Hep had the vision for the finished product and it didn’t take long for the fans to see it as well. Then the belief came. The 2005 Hoosiers came out on fire, starting the season 4-1 before dropping their final six games of the season, but the faith was there. They were so close.
For the first time in a long time, many believed the football program was finally ready to turn the proverbial corner. In 2006, the team took another step forward as the Hoosiers finished 5-7 and just one win away from becoming bowl eligible. But, like the aforementioned cases of construction, the program hit a major snag when their visionary lost his battle with brain cancer before the start of the 2007 season. Although he was gone, his presence was as strong as ever that season and the Hoosiers were finally able to “Play 13.”
However, instead of putting the car in drive and turning the corner, the program went in reverse under the helm of Bill Lynch, and the construction was put on hold. But, just like all construction, it eventually resumed when Fred Glass replaced Lynch with the stern, no-nonsense coach that was Kevin Wilson. It was exactly the type of coach the football program needed at the time and although his team finished 1-11 that first year, it finally felt like the car was in drive again.
With each year under Wilson, the team got better and the foundation for the construction was beginning to look more solid than ever. The program was close.
But yet again, just as the program was poised to finally turn that proverbial corner, the car slid back into reverse when Wilson resigned under allegations of player mistreatment.
Yet, this time was different. Someone was ready to step up and put that car back in drive immediately. Glass quickly handled the situation, that was surely to be disastrous, and promoted Tom Allen from Defensive Coordinator to Head Coach. The same Tom Allen that seemingly single-handedly turned a laughing stock defense into something that was well beyond respectable. The same Tom Allen who has a passion, vision and enthusiasm that is eerily similar to Coach Hep.
It’s been 10 years now since Hoeppner’s passing. To honor him, the athletic department has stuck to his vision of constructing a top-notch stadium and this year the team will also be debuting new “Hep’s Rock” alternate uniforms. There could be no bigger honor to the late Hoeppner than not only finishing the construction of Memorial Stadium, but finishing the construction of the football program.
Allen and Glass know how close Hep’s vision is to becoming reality, and neither one has any plan to put the construction on hold again.
The 2017 season is kicking off in just six days and there is no more time for delays and definitely no time to be putting the car in reverse. The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes are coming to town and the noise emanating from inside Memorial Stadium is deafening.
The staff, players and fans are all-in as the program is ready to breakthrough. Being close is no longer good enough and no longer acceptable.
Let’s see if the Allen and the Hoosiers are ready to step on the gas and finally turn that corner. It’s time for this construction to be finished.