W.C. Gorden (center left), former Jackson State University head coach and three-time hall of famer in the sports world, passed away on Oct. 23, 2020, at 90 years old. Photo courtesy JSU Athletics
On Friday, October 23, Jackson State University announced that legendary former head coach W.C. Gorden passed away. Gorden is the winningest coach in JSU football history. He was 90 years old.
Gorden is considered a Jackson State foundation builder as he built a team that dominated the Southwestern Athletic Conference. He started his career as defensive back coach and head baseball coach at JSU.
He led the Tigers to a SWAC baseball title in 1972. In 1976, JSU named Gorden as interim head football coach. JSU then named him the full-time head coach in 1977, and the rest turned out to be perfect for the Tigers.
During his time as head coach, Gorden posted a 119-47-5 overall record from 1977 to 1991. He won all or part of eight SWAC titles. JSU claimed the SWAC title in football in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990.
Under Gorden the Tigers reached the NCAA Playoffs nine times during his tenure as head coach. At one point he led JSU on a 28-game conference streak as the Tigers dominated their SWAC foes.
After stepping down as JSU head football coach, Gorden stayed with the university, becoming athletic director at JSU from 1991 to 1994 before retiring from sports.
Gorden played his college sports at Tennessee State University. He was a four-time letter winner at first base and a team captain. He earned two-letters in football as a wide receiver. He served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955.
The future hall of famer started his coaching career at Eva Gordon High School from 1966 to 1967. He coached football, baseball, track and served as athletic director.
Gorden’s next stop was Temple High School where he was the athletic director and head football coach. He won the high school Negro Big 8 Conference State Champions in 1966.
In 1997, the Mississippi legislature honored Gorden as the winningest head coach in JSU history. The legislature also honored Gorden for his work in academics as the Tigers enjoyed a higher graduation rate than any other school in the SWAC and higher than the student body at JSU.
The Nashville, Tenn., native was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fall in 1997 and inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. Gorden was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Finally, he was named to the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2015. It was Gorden that made the Jackson State job high profile enough to lure current coach Deion Sanders to his new head coaching position.