By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — Once Mark Lane took over the head varsity football coaching job at Milton-Union High School, he never thought he’d give it up.
But Lane, who also took over as the school’s athletic director at the beginning of 2017, finds himself doing just that as he announced this week that he’d be stepping down as football coach to focus on his duties as AD.
“My career’s just moving in a different path,” Lane said. “I never thought that this would’ve been the case — but I may have moved into the area that’s the only thing in the world that could take me away from being head football coach.
“Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was be head football coach at Milton-Union. Obviously that happened, I loved it and never wanted to give it up. But in my mind now, what I need to do is put my focus towards being athletic director.”
And for Lane, it wasn’t the added stress or time demands of trying to do both jobs at once. It was simply the desire to do the best job possible.
“I’ve got to be honest, and probably no one is going to believe me even though I’m going to go ahead and say it, but it’s not about how much stress there is and it’s not about how much time there is. It’s about how I want to do the job,” Lane said. “That’s really what it’s about. It’s not that I can’t do both. I think that people can do both, and I think I could do both. I think most of the people you could talk to would say I did a good job at doing both. But there’s a certain way that I want to do things, and that’s really the reason.”
During his five season with the team, the Bulldogs went 23-30 overall, qualifying for the playoffs in two of those seasons, 2015 and 2016.
Lane took over after Milton-Union was a regional finalist in 2012, going 2-8 and 3-7 in his first two seasons. The team then went 6-5 in 2015, losing to Greeneview by one point in the opening round of the postseason. And in 2016, the Bulldogs went 8-4, coming one overtime loss to Carlisle shy of winning the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship. They did win a first-round playoff game, though, routing Aiken before falling to CHCA in the regional semifinal round. In 2017, the Bulldogs went 4-6 in what turned out to be Lane’s final season at the helm. Lane also oversaw the career of Zac Shields, who became the program’s all-time leading rusher this season in his final year with the team.
But the things on the field — the wins, the losses, the stats, the playoff games — aren’t what Lane will take away from his time coaching the Bulldog football team.
“The highlights have absolutely got to be working with the boys,” he said. “Growing the boys into young men, I will cherish that forever. And I will continue to cherish it in the athletic director role. There’s nothing more powerful in this world, in my opinion, than being able to work with young boys and turn them into young men.
“That’s why you do this. That’s why you get into this business. And that’s why I’ve really learned to enjoy the athletic director role, because now my influence has extended big time.”
And that focus on the athletic director role will also assist Lane in finding his successor.
“I’m very confident we’re going to find a more-than-high-quality coach that’s going to do a phenomenal job. And my job is to find a better coach than I was,” Lane said. “And to be honest with you, that’s my goal, to find someone that is going to be better than I was, and I think I’ll be able to do that. This is a football town. People in West Milton love Milton-Union football, and there’s going to be a lot of interest in the job.
“I’m extremely proud that I’ll be staying at Milton-Union as the athletic director. It’s a place I love.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.