Proctor Brought High School Sports Into the 21st Century
Ennis Proctor began his career as a coach and ended it as an administrator to whom high school athletes and coaches across Mississippi owe boundless gratitude.
Simply put, Proctor brought Mississippi high school sports into the 21st century after inheriting an organization that languished in something very much like the 19th century.
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.
Now then, look at what Proctor left behind when he retired in 2011: 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.
“Ennis Proctor has done more for the improvement and promotion of high school sports than anyone I know in Mississippi or anywhere else,” says his successor, Don Hinton. “His accomplishments are truly legendary and are not just recognized in Mississippi but all over the country.”
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.
Now then, here’s what you need to know about that: Proctor would become president of that same organization, the National Federation of State High School Associations, years later after having served on its board of directors.
Though Proctor’s primary sport as a coach was football, he worked tirelessly as an administrator to ensure that the so-called minor sports — girls sports in particular — received full support and governance of the MHSAA.
“My guiding philosophy is that the MHSAA exists for the students and that anything we can do to enhance their opportunities to participate is what we need to be doing,” Proctor has said. “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 opportunity as your sons.”
Under Proctor’s leadership, the MHSAA has begun to televise its championship games in football and basketball and is looking to increase television exposure.
Proctor grew up in Miami, and was an offensive end on the 1958 Miami Senior High School football team that was declared mythical national champion. He had to work his way through college, so he was able to play football only as a freshman at Mississippi College. He worked both night and day jobs to pay his way through school.
After graduating in 1964, he launched a long career as a coach and later as a principal. During stops at Mississippi schools Raymond and Jackson Wingfield, he compiled a record of 87-40 in football and 103-25 in baseball. Among the players Proctor mentored was NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.
Proctor later spent 13 years serving as an assistant or head principal at three schools before being hired by the MHSAA.