Ticket sales brisk for Hall of Fame event|[3/24/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ticket sales for the April 1 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Vicksburg Convention Center are going briskly, Jackson Touchdown Club President Mike Robbins said.

One concern for Robbins, though, is sponsorships from the Vicksburg community. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which is presented by the Jackson Touchdown Club, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

“The tickets are going good and I anticipate a sellout. We had a pretty brisk pick up last week,” Robbins said. “But our local sponsorships have fallen off a bit. We hope the Vicksburg community realizes what a great event the Hall of Fame induction banquet is.”

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This will mark the fourth year the Vicksburg Convention Center has hosted the MSHOF induction ceremony.

“It’s a great facility and the city really lends itself well for the event,” Robbins said.

This year’s induction class has proven to be another top draw for the ceremonies. Topping the list of eight inductees is former Ole Miss head womens basketball coach Van Chancellor.

Last August, Chancellor directed the United States womens national team to the Olympic gold medal in Athens, Greece.

Chancellor, the current head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Houston franchise, led the Comets to four straight WNBA championships.

Also in the induction class are former Southern Miss and NFL football player Hanford Dixon, former USM coach M.K. Turk, Northwest Community College football coach Bobby Ray Franklin, Hal Easterwood, Bill Goodrich, golfer Joe Iupe and Charlie Rugg.

Robbins said while Chancellor may be the biggest name, the largest ticket sellers have been Franklin and Rugg.

“Bobby Ray Franklin has a huge following in this state and he has quite a large group of friends and family coming,” Robbins said. “Charlie Rugg is another who also has a big following coming.”

Franklin is one of Mississippi’s top junior college coaches having led Northwest Community Colleges to several state titles.

“This is certainly a very deserving honor for Bobby Ray,” said former Ole Miss teammate Warner Alford. “He’s one of the great ones at Ole Miss. He was a super athlete.”

Rugg was a long-time basketball and tennis coach at Belhaven College. His team won the 1983 NAIA Tennis National Championship.

Turk led the USM to the 1987 NIT Championship, which is still the only mens’ Division I national level championship for a Mississippi collegiate team. The title came 10 years after Turk inherited a program that had gone 0-26 in 1976.

Iupe established himself as one of the state’s best amateur golfers. Iupe won the Mississippi Professional Golf Association’s Championship a record-tying five times.

Dixon was a standout defensive back at USM and then on to become a Pro Bowl player for the Cleveland Browns during the 1980s.

Goodrich was one of the more distinct voices in college sports radio. He was the play-by-play voice at Clemson, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.

In addition to the inductions, the Jackson Touchdown Club will present the Mississippi Amateur Athlete of the Year award to Mississippi State track star Tiffany McWilliams.

Todd Pinkston, a wide receiver for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, will be presented with the Mississippi Professional Athlete of the Year Award.

Two teams will be honored at the event. The Mississippi School for the Deaf will be recognized for winning its fourth consecutive National Deaf Football Championship in 2004.

The second honored team will be the Delta State University baseball team which won the 2004 NCAA Division II National Championship.