PREP FOOTBALL

Lake Station school board relieves Hepp from football position

2012-05-19T20:35:00Z 2014-02-19T21:05:14Z Lake Station school board relieves Hepp from football positionBy Steve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

It didn't take Mike Hepp long to sum up the way he feels about recent happenings at Lake Station High School.

"I've spent 35 years in the same school district and some people will still treat you like (expletive)," Hepp said on Friday night.

On Wednesday his district's school board voted 4-1 to terminate Hepp's position as Lake Station head football coach. In two runs as Eagles coach, Hepp is 27-55 in eight seasons.

In 1998 he coached Lake Station to the school's second sectional championship in history.

And this is where it gets strange. Hepp said he was considering retiring from teaching. But he wanted to keep coaching. Hepp said he talked to his athletic director, Terry Milner, and his superintendent, Dan DeHaven, and both said it wouldn't be a problem.

So Hepp turned in his retirement paperwork and held on to his whistle. But that lasted only a week.

Last Wednesday the school board went in another direction.

"I don't even know if I was fired or what," Hepp said. "Nobody has told me why, even after I got their support."

This Wednesday there will be another school board meeting at the school and Hepp said many former players, current players and coaches want one question answered.

"They want to know why," Hepp said.

The Highland native officially turned in his teaching retirement form two weeks ago. His last day in the school as a teacher will be June 7.

"They said they had no problem with it at first," Hepp said.

Hepp believes that small-town petty politics are pushing for his forced departure.

"No one has ever told me why," Hepp said. "Jim East had a great run after his retirement at Merrillville."

In 2009 Lake Station went 0-10 and was shut out seven times. The Eagles were outscored 475-30. In May of 2010 Hepp returned as head coach. He stepped down as grid coach in 1999.

In 2001 the lack of numbers forced a shutdown of the program. It was revived but barely. The Eagles played only five games that season.

The bar was so low when Hepp returned in 2010 that success had to be redefined. Lake Station was 1-9. Last fall, playing several freshmen and sophomores, the Eagles were also 1-9.

"We were excited about this upcoming season," Hepp said. "I've been here 35 years. I still wanted to coach. I cared about the kids."

Attempts to reach Milner on Saturday were unsuccessful.

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