Gough makes MC’s sports hall without playing or coaching

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2001

[05/30/01] When Norman Gough first set foot on the Mississippi College campus as a bright-eyed 18-year-old, he was on his way to enroll at MC’s biggest rival, Millsaps.

Fifty years after getting off that Jackson-bound bus, MC has made sure that the Vicksburg native will never leave.

Gough, who served as Mississippi College’s sports information director for 34 years, was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in April. He is the first non-athlete and non-coach to receive the honor.

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“It’s a very big honor. One that was unexpected,” Gough said. “When you look at some of the people in the Hall of Fame, like Stanley Robinson and Goat Hale … You can sit and name a number of guys that have gone on and played pro baseball or pro football. It’s very humbling.

“I’m a grown man, but it did bring a tear to my eye.”

His career of service at the school which also included serving as assistant director of athletics, director of public relations and chief photographer, among several other jobs came very close to happening a little further down Highway 80.

Gough, whose first job was delivering The Vicksburg Evening Post, graduated from Carr Central in 1951. He was on his way to enroll at Millsaps that spring when something told him to get off the bus when it made a stop at MC’s Clinton campus.

While exploring the campus, he discovered that his grandfather had graduated from MC in 1901. After talking to some alumni about his grandfather, Dr. Norman Henry, and the school, he decided to enroll at MC instead.

“What made me get off that bus, I’ll never know, but I found three people that knew my grandfather,” Gough said.

Gough had been a three-year letterman in baseball at Carr Central, and was invited to join MC’s team by Robinson. But when an arm injury cut his career short, Gough turned to the other side of sports.

He began keeping stats for the team and wrote game stories for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1954 and joined the army. His first post was in Fairbanks, Alaska, in December.

“I went up there in December. You’re talking a little Mississippi boy who had never been out of the state before,” Gough said with a laugh. “It was a little traumatic at first.”

After the army, he returned to the south, attending Tulane and working in New Orleans before finally returning to his alma mater as the sports information director in 1961.

He never left again.

Gough served in the post for 34 years, until his retirement in 1995. During his tenure, Gough oversaw a switch from hand-kept stats to computerized stats and along with his wife, Marleen, helped redesign the press box at Robinson-Hale Stadium overnight.

“Apparently the architect had never been inside a working press box. He had the radio booths next to each other and seats on top of one another,” Gough said with a laugh. “We completely redesigned the thing in about 12 hours. That’s all we had before they started on it.”

It was just one of many times his wife helped him, Gough said. A part-time employee of MC, she became a hostess at football games in later years.

“She’s been a big assistance in helping me,” Gough said.

Gough was also part of the Choctaws’ football national championship in 1989. MC beat Jacksonville State in a thrilling 3-0 game for the title, but it was later taken away because of recruiting violations.

“It was sad, but I still wear my ring. They didn’t take our rings away,” Gough said. “If you look in the record book, we’re still listed as having won it; they just have an asterisk next to it.”

Even though Gough has been retired for six years, he still hasn’t left MC completely. Along with longtime partner Van “Doc” Quick, he still keeps stats at basketball games just like they’ve done for the past 40 years.

One of Gough’s closest friends, Quick presented Gough at the Hall of Fame induction banquet.

“I doubt there’s another twosome in the country that have worked together as long as we have,” Quick said. “He’s a good man. He has meant so much to the sports program here at Mississippi College … He’s worked hard over the years, and it’s just been a one-man operation over here.”

Gough also remains a fixture at Robinson-Hale, where he has spent so many Saturdays. He hasn’t missed a Choctaw home football game in 40 years and said he has no plans on breaking the streak anytime soon.

“Good Lord willing, I’ll see many more,” he said. “One year I had some surgery done and I thought I was going to miss a ballgame. But it was an out-of-town game, so my wife drove and I worked on the way.”

When Gough finally did step aside, he wasn’t easily replaced.

“When I retired, they hired four people to do my job,” he said with a laugh.

He also wasn’t forgotten.

When this year’s Hall of Fame voting took place, Gough was at the top of the list. From an initial list of 200 people nominated by MC’s “M Club” boosters, he received the most votes through two rounds of voting and was easily elected to the Hall despite his prowess in the press box rather than on the field.

“Traditionally, it’s been athletes being nominated. But Mississippi State has Jack Cristil and and other hall of fames have people who covered things,” said MC alumni director Lance Clay, whose department helped oversee the voting. “There was never any hesitation. It was well-deserved for what Norman has done here.”