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Ben Jones photo
Ben Jones photo
Ben Jones
Hometown: Amory, MS
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One of the founders of the MAC Coaches Hall of Fame, Coach Ben Jones was a legendary football, basketball, and track coach who led programs at Hatley, Gulfport Junior High, Gulfport, Tupelo, Itawamba AHS, Meridian, Itawamba Community College, and New Albany. Coach Jones hailed from Amory where he lettered in football three years and baseball one year at Amory High. He achieved is college degrees from Ole Miss. He began his 32-year coaching career in 1951 coaching both football and basketball. Ben’s first coaching job was at Hatley as a substitute coach in basketball, a sport he knew little about. After checking out books on the sport at the library, he led his first team to a record of 26-7 and the Monroe County championship. In 1952, he was drafted into the U. S. Navy and attempted to be a jet pilot but failed to pass the sight test. He soon taught Naval pilots how to survive a downed plane. After returning from Ole Miss for additional degrees, he re-entered the coaching field at West Junior High in Gulfport leading the football, basketball, and golf teams. In 1958, he was promoted to head coach for basketball and guide Gulfport High to a Big Eight title over Murrah in 1961. His Gulfport basketball teams had a record of 72 wins and 27 losses. He then arrived at Tupelo where he coached boys’ basketball and was assistant football coach for one season. While operating the Dairy Kream in Tupelo, he was alerted to a football and basketball opening at Itawamba AHS by the editor of the Itawamba Times who knew the head coach was injured and unable to coach. He promptly led his first team to a 7-1-1 record and the Tombigbee Conference title. In addition, Ben was a calming force in leading the first totally integrated football and basketball teams in the state of Mississippi in 1967 when East High would merge with Itawamba. He created a “fairness rule” to make it a level playing field for both black and white players and relieve racial tensions. Ben insisted that his players walk around the field at the games with their helmets off to show the crowd and the athletes that he stood with them at all times. Coach Jones would remain at Itawamba AHS until 1972 and teams during his tenure went 81-15-7 and captured 7 Tombigbee Conference championships with five bowl appearances. In 1973, Coach Jones was named head coach of Itawamba Community College where he served from 1973 to 1975. He led the Indians to a North MACJC Championship in 1974 and the MACJC state title in 1975. At ICC, Ben led the Indians to a record of 22-9-1 and the only undefeated team in the history of the school in 1975. Coach Jones was named the Mississippi Junior College Coach of the Year in 1974 and 1975. Ben then arrived at Meridian in 1976 where he turned around a losing program in just two seasons. His 1977 Wildcats finished 8-3 and defeated Warren Central in the famed Red Carpet Bowl. In 1979, Coach Jones returned to North Mississippi, this time to New Albany. He would lead New Albany until his retirement in 1986 winning the Little Ten title in his first season with a 10-2 record after the team had finished 0-10 in the previous season in 1978. His best New Albany squad was a 1982 team that finished 11-2, won the North half title, and was state runner-up. His New Albany teams compiled a record of 60 wins, 23 losses, and 1 tie including the Little 10 title in 1979. Overall, Coach Jones’ football teams had 152 wins, 48 losses, and 8 ties while his basketball squads had a mark of 118 wins and 49 losses. His football teams won 8 conference championships. Following retirement, Ben worked as national sales representative for BSN and Riddell eam Equipment, and he spent a decade as a member of the Cleveland Indians staff during spring training. Coach Jones was a highly decorated mentor having received the JUCO coach of the year awards in 1974 and 1975. He was national high school coach of the year for the southeastern region in 1972 and 1987 and was the recipient of numerous coach of the year awards in the Tombigbee and Little 10 Conferences. Coach Jones participated in two of the most famous games in the history of the Bernard Blackwell All-Star football classic as he was assistant coach in the famed 1967 game featuring Archie Manning and was head coach in the 1971 game which was the first ever integrated all-star contest. Off the field and the court, Ben was a staunch MAC supporter who served as president of the MAC in 1971-72. He helped create the MAC Coaches Hall of Fame during his career. Coach Jones also was an integral part of developing the tie-breaker rule in 1972, which paved the way for a state-wide playoff system. Along with his membership in the MAC Coaches Hall of Fame which he helped found, Ben was inducted into the Itawamba Community College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, the Northeast Mississippi Football Coaches Hall of Fame, and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2017. Coach Jones passed away in July, 2017.