- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

GARY, Ind. (AP) - A cold April wind whipped out of the north last week. Surely the waters of Lake Michigan were chopping harshly 25 blocks away.

Ron Heflin and Benny Dorsey felt the chill in their bones. An all-consuming sadness enveloped the Hall of Fame coaches as they walked around the now-Roosevelt College & Career Academy.

“The pride is gone,” said Dorsey, a 1954 Gary Roosevelt grad and longtime Panthers coach in basketball and baseball. Dorsey coached three major leaguers in Joe Gates, Wallace Johnson and Lloyd McClendon.

“You can’t give up hope,” said Heflin, a ‘58 ‘Velt grad and coach of the 1991 state championship team at the school. “But this is hard. It’s sad.”

Roosevelt wasn’t just the pride of Gary in a bygone era. But also Indiana and America.

George Taliaferro, the first black man drafted in the NFL, went to Roosevelt. Lee Calhoun, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, did, too. As did Chuck Adkins, who won Olympic boxing gold. Dick Barnett played 14 seasons in the NBA and won titles with the Knicks.

Glenn Robinson was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1991.

“Times change,” Heflin told The Times in Munster (http://bit.ly/R2R8cl ). “This place isn’t what it once was.”

In 2011-12, the state handed control of Roosevelt to New York-based EdisonLearning because of poor test scores. Initially, athletics were going to be cut, but they survived, barely.

In the 2012-13 school year, Roosevelt had four athletic directors. The girls basketball team did not enter the IHSAA state tournament. It did not register online like the 399 other schools did. The state association tried multiple times to contact Roosevelt, but to no avail.

Now, Lew Wallace Science Academy is facing similar doubts as the Gary Community School Corp.’s budget deficit has left the school on the chopping block.

Wallace only played six games last season. Previously, Wallace won 21 Northwestern Conference championships and remains the only Gary football school to win a sectional championship in 1989.

With the Hornets’ situation in limbo, West Side’s football program picked up South Bend Washington instead of playing its city rival.

“As far as I know (Lew Wallace) is still going to have football,” Gary schools spokeswoman Sarita Stevens said. But she confirmed that a final decision on whether Wallace would be a school next school year has not yet been determined.

“I hope so,” Lew Wallace football coach Al Williams said when asked if his Hornets would have a football team next school year. “I’m the wrong person to ask. But I’m hoping so.”

Story Continues →