Vaught remembered as father of Ole Miss football

Updated: February 9, 2006, 4:15 PM ET
Associated Press

OXFORD, Miss. -- John Vaught was remembered Thursday as a friend to many and the father of football at the University of Mississippi.

Former Ole Miss players, coaches and contemporaries were among a crowd of about 350 who attended funeral services for the coach who led the Rebels to six Southeastern Conference championships and 18 bowl games in 25 seasons.

Vaught died this past week at an assisted living facility. He was 96.

"He was a friend after you played, and you got to know him as a friend -- that's what meant the most to him," said Warner Alford, a former player and athletic director.

Among the invited guests attending the services were former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove; several former players including Archie Manning; Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron; several former Rebels coaches; and SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

Manning told the gathering that he and New Orleans Saints officials once met at Vaught's ranch outside Oxford to discuss the quarterback's contract and Vaught objected to what he thought was a low offer by the Saints.

Said Manning: "Coach Vaught said, 'My gosh, son, he made more than that playing up here.'"

Vaught played at TCU from 1930-32.

Vaught took over the Ole Miss program in 1947 and began his string of 20-plus seasons of success. Heart problems forced Vaught to retire in 1970. But after the Rebels started poorly in 1973 and fired Billy Kinard, Vaught won five of eight games to finish that season.

He is a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and National College Football Hall of Fame.

A black fedora adorned Vaught's coffin -- a final, fitting tribute to the legendary coach who always wore a suit, tie and hat during games.

Vaught was 190-61-12 at Ole Miss, which named its stadium after him. Professional and college teams still use his variations on offense.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press