W.C. Gorden | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

W.C. Gorden

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Courtesy JSU

Jackson State University has seen some great football coaches, but the greatest, without question, is W.C. Gorden, who coached the Tigers from 1977 to 1991.

During his 15 years at Jackson State, Gorden won 119 games, lost only 48 games and tied five times. He won or shared eight SWAC titles (1980-'82, 1985-'88, '90) and made nine trips to the NCAA Playoffs, though the team didn't win a playoff game.

In his college years, Gorden was a standout athlete at Tennessee State University, where he was named All Midwestern Conference, a four-year letterman in baseball and two-year letterman in football. He served in the United States Navy from 1953 to 1955 after leaving Tennessee State University.

Like current Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, Gorden began his coaching career in the high school circuit, coaching at Eva Gordon High School before moving to Temple High School. He came to JSU in 1971 as head baseball coach and won a SWAC baseball title in 1972 before being named interim football coach in 1976.

Jackson State won 28 straight SWAC games from 1985 to 1989 under Gorden. He finished with a 76-17 SWAC record and 43-31-5 non-conference record.

Gorden also coached the SWAC All-Stars to a 16-14 victory over the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in the third annual Freedom Bowl.

Jackson State also led the NCAA at the Division I-AA (now FCS) in fan home attendance seven times while Gorden helmed the program. Gorden was named SWAC Coach of the Year six times.

Success on the football field was not the only thing Gorden was concerned about while at Jackson State. During his time at JSU, the Tigers had the highest graduation rate in the SWAC.

In fact, when the NCAA released its first comprehensive graduation rate scorecard in 1980 and 1981, JSU led the state with a graduation rate of 61.9 percent. Academics was just as, if not more, important than football while Gorden was leading the Tigers football program.

After stepping down as football coach after the 1990 season, Gorden was the athletic director at Jackson State from 1991 to 1994. He was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 1994.

Gorden was the 1997 recipient of the Capital City Classic Humanitarian Award and entered the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame the same year. Then, in 2008, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Gorden will now be one of the seven new members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame. He and the others will be enshrined on February 28, 2015, in Atlanta, and the Atlanta Falcons will present the award.

Canton native L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College, now known as University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff), who passed away in 2013, former pro-football player and professional wrestler Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd (Grambling State), who passed away in 2007, Super Bowl MVP and champion Richard Dent (Tennessee State University), four-time Super Bowl champion Donnie Shell (South Carolina State University), former pro football players Roger Brown (University of Maryland Eastern Shore) and Ken Riley (Florida A&M University) will be also be commemorated in the Black College Football Hall of Fame.

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