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Cleveland: On Ennis Proctor Going into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame

Ennis Proctor this July will become only the eighth Mississippian inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame. Trust me: No administrator, here or anywhere, could be more deserving.

The 2016 High School Hall of Fame induction class will include such sports luminaries as Steve Spurrier and Marlin Briscoe.

Proctor couldn’t throw like Spurrier or run like Briscoe, but he did more for Mississippi high school athletes than anyone — ever.

As executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA), Proctor brought the Magnolia State’s high school sports into the 21st century after inheriting an organization that languished in something very much like the 19th century. This is no exaggeration.

When Proctor took over as the executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) in 1991, the state’s public schools offered only nine sanctioned sports. Worse, the MHSAA had less than $100,000 in the bank and one telephone line in the office. The MHSAA didn’t even have a fax machine. Relations between the governing body of Mississippi high school sports and the media covering it bordered on non-existent.

When Proctor retired in 2011: the MHSAA boasted 24 sanctioned sports (an addition of 15); a bank account of more than $2 million; an office with multiple phone lines, fax machines and computers; televised championships; and the respect of coaches, administrators and media statewide.

Simply put: No single person has done more for high school athletes — boys, girls, black and white — than Ennis Proctor, a soft-spoken former coach, athletic director and principal.

In 1991, at his first national convention of state high school athletic associations, the question was asked: How many of you do not have fax machines? Proctor was the only state director who raised his hand. Truth be known, his face was a little red. Proctor later would become president of that same organization, the National Federation of State High School Associations, years later.

Though Proctor’s primary sport as a coach was football, he worked tirelessly as an administrator to ensure the so-called minor sports — girls sports in particular — received full support and governance of the MHSAA. As a coach, he helped usher in integration in Mississippi sports. Among his many former players is Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.

Proctor’s guiding philosophy was that the MHSAA exists for students and should do anything and everything possible to enhance opportunities to participate. Proctor once told me, “We didn’t add all the girls sports because of Title IX. We did it because it was the right thing to do. It’s simple when you think about it like this: Your daughters deserve the same opportunities as your sons.”

Proctor grew up in Miami, and was an end on the 1958 Miami Senior High School football team that was declared mythical national champion. He came to Mississippi to attend Mississippi College, where he had to drop out of sports to work his way through school with both day and night jobs.

He was a highly successful coach (87-40 record in football and 103-25 in baseball) before moving into administration, where he used his people skills and organizational acumen to accomplish more than now seems imaginable. Upon his retirement he was voted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on first ballot. I can assure you this: That rarely happens and in Mississippi is an honor normally reserved for people with names like Manning, Payton, Rice and Favre.

Again, Proctor couldn’t throw like Archie Manning and Brett Favre. He couldn’t run or catch like Walter Payton or Jerry Rice. He just did all he could to make sure Mississippi’s children — all of them, girls and boys, black and white — have the opportunity to participate and compete.

Rick Cleveland is the historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and a syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@msfame.com.

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Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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