One outright Big Ten Championship (and undefeated season): 1945, 9-0-1
It's no mystery that Indiana has never been a football powerhouse, but on the heels of World War II, the Hoosiers ended up cruising to an undefeated season and their only outright Big Ten Championship. The season started off with a trio of close contents (13-7 over Michigan, 7-7 against Northwestern, and 6-0 over Illinois) before Indiana ran over six of their last seven opponents. They dominated Nebraska (52-14) and Iowa (52-20) prior to a slight blip against Tulsa (7-2). In the final four games, the Hoosiers outscored their opponents by a combined 140-6, which included three straight shutouts to finish the year. Bo McMillan coached Indiana at the time, and he's arguably the most significant football coach in team history: he's coached the most seasons (14 from 1934-47), is one of only three Indiana coaches to last at least ten years (Lee Corso and Bill Mallory being the others), and led the team to its only undefeated season as well as its only outright Big Ten Championship (the Hoosiers were co-champs in 1967). Also he dominated Indiana's in-state rival with a record of 9-4-1 against the Purdue Boilermakers.
Unfortunately, the success for Indiana was short-lived. After the '45 season, they slipped to third in the Big Ten in '46, sixth in '47, and by '49, they were back near the bottom of the conference at ninth.
A coach that was gone too soon: "Coach Hep", Terry Hoeppner (2005-06)
From what I can gather, Hoeppner had the attitude necessary to bring some level of success to Hoosiers football, and he would have if not for his untimely death. Upon his arrival, he lit a fire under the program in the hopes of resurrecting a team that hadn't finished with a winning record in a decade. He started a "Coach Hoeppner Wants YOU!" movement à la Uncle Sam, coined his "Play 13" mantra to hopefully inspire the team to their first bowl game since 1993, and installed a limestone boulder in the north end zone - known today as "Hep's Rock" - which before each game, the Hoosiers touch before running onto the field. With all of this, he became "the face of IU football - literally."
In his first season, the Hoosiers sprinted out to a 3-0 start with wins against Central Michigan, Nicholls State, and Kentucky (a traditional basketball rivalry that has more recently carried over to football). However, conference play derailed the promising start, and Indiana finished last in the conference at 4-7. A similar fate occurred in 2006 as the Hoosiers started 2-0 before finishing 5-7, a win away from the postseason. Sadly, Hoeppner was diagnosed with a brain tumor prior to the '06 season, and he passed away on June 19, 2007, a little over seven years ago.
The Hoosiers ended up fulfilling the "Play 13" motto in 2007, finishing 7-6 and earning a spot in the Insight Bowl. Read this piece written by Crimson Quarry in honor of Coach Hep for some more perspective regarding his impact on Indiana football.
Rivalry time: Old Oaken Bucket Game vs. Purdue Boilermakers
I wrote about this game back when we previewed Purdue, so I'm going to cop out and paste that below:
I'm a fan of this game, because it's one of those rivalries that's been around forever (since 1891) and rarely misses a beat (aside from war years, the two teams have failed to play each other only once, in 1903). The trophy's name is charming and archaic, and the trophy itself has this insanely long string of P's and I's representing the winners that I have to imagine gets in the way at times. And even though
the devil incarnateJim Delaney continues to try and screw over every tradition related to Big Ten football, the Old Oaken Bucket game will continue even though Purdue and Indiana are in different divisions starting this year.
Indiana currently holds the trophy after handling Purdue 56-36 last year. The Hoosiers also play for the Old Brass Spittoon against Michigan State in a game that some don't know or care about.
So that's it for the Hoosiers. With a team that has struggled to maintain success and a school focused on the triumphs of the basketball team, there isn't too much to know about Indiana's football team. Hopefully all of this changes in the coming years due to Coach Hep's brief but inspirational two years as head coach of the program.