White Hall head football coach Mike Vaughn announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2019 school year two weeks ago. He has been coaching for 48 years and believes the time is right for him to hang up his whistle and enjoy time with family, friends, and time on the golf course. It is a career that both began and will end in White Hall.
“I started my career here at White Hall in 1971 as a junior high coach,” Vaughn said. “I stayed here for 13 years. I coached junior high for three years, then coached high school for 10 years with Coach Sam Smith. I had a great time, then got the opportunity to be head coach at Carlisle. I went over there and spent four years there. From there I went to Bryant as offensive coordinator for three years. After that, I went to Hazen to be head coach. My kids were school age, and I wanted them to be in a small school, and the Good Lord just took care of us. We spent six wonderful years there. After that, I went to Bauxite for a year before I went to Sheridan before I came back to White Hall.”
“Coach Doug Dorris called me and asked if I would be interested in coming back to White Hall to help with junior high again. I thought that was the perfect situation at that point, so I came back here,” Vaughn continued. “I thought that is what I would end up doing for the rest of my career, but the Good Lord works things out. Coach Dorris moved up into administration and Coach Charlie Vereen retired, and I got the head job and have been here for the last 16 years.”
Vaughn said he feels like he is the luckiest guy in the world to have been able to work with some of the best coaches and administrators in the business.
“I will tell anybody that I am the luckiest guy in the world,” Vaughn said. “I have worked for the best administrators and I have had the best coaches in the world working with me. I never went into a job where I had a coach that I thought I couldn’t get along with. I was always fortunate that I’ve always had good people. Of course, when I got the job here it was all old friends who were coaching here, so it was a perfect scenario for me. I have just been fortunate.”
Vaughn said he knew at the beginning of the school year that this would most likely be his last year to coach before he retired.
“A buddy of mine that passed away a few years ago once told me that you will know when it is your time, and I did," Vaughn said. "My dad used to tell me that if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life, but I knew it was coming to a point in time that I was going to have to really work at it, and I just knew I had a lot of reasons to do it.”
Health issues is one of the reasons Vaughn decided to enter retirement.
“I have got a bad knee that I am going to get fixed,” Vaughn said. “So, I got to thinking that if I am going to get to go out and play golf a lot, or just travel, this is the time to do it. I’m 70 years old, so it is time. It is just perfect for me.”
As with any coach who has spent a significant amount of time in the profession, Vaughn had some good years and some bad years, but for him, the good years outweighed the bad.
“We have won three conference titles here and made the playoffs every year but two,” Vaughn said. “In 2011 we started off the season 0-3 with our last loss being to Stuttgart, and we went on to win the conference title. We went from the flex bone to the spread in one week. I turned the offense over to (his son) Scooter Vaughn at halftime of the Stuttgart game. That Sunday we had a team meeting under the goal post and I told them that we was going to have to bow up and just get it done, and they did. The next game we had over 400 yards of offense but lost to Sheridan on a fumble, but we didn’t lose another one after that until we got beat by Batesville, who won state the next week.
"We had a shot at that one but had four turnovers in that game. That just wasn’t like us, but it took us out of the ball game. We thought that year that if we made it to the state title game we had a shot to win it, but the turnovers cost us.”
There are other high points of his career that will always stick in the back of Vaughn’s mind.
“I think coaching with my son Scooter, and at Hazen when we made it to the semi-finals against Rison,” he said. “I had a lot of high points. You can’t always pick out any particular thing because each class has their own high points. We had the class that went 0-10, and they practiced harder than many other teams we had. They were 0-9 and still practiced hard that last week. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, because in that situation, a lot of times people start griping at each other and fighting each other, but that never happened. They never blamed any coaches, never blamed each other, they just played. That kind of thing makes you look back and appreciate everything.”
One of Vaughn’s longest-serving assistant coaches is Wade Reynolds. Reynolds said that Vaughn is one of the good guys in the profession for more reasons than one.
“I wish I knew how to get you a number for the amount of kids that he not only took home from practice but stopped somewhere and fed them their supper night after night for years and years,” Reynolds said. “These were kids that he knew didn’t have enough at home, so he made sure they had enough to eat. He would go through McDonald's and buy them food. A lot of coaches would tell guys that they needed to get a ride home, but he would take them home and, in many cases, he would feed them. He has always been one of those guys who cared more about the kids than anything else.”
Reynolds said that Vaughn and his staff had a lot of success not only developing athletes, but also developing young men who have gone on to lead successful lives.
“White Hall hasn’t been known for always producing great athletes,” Reynolds said. “One thing about it, though, is that all of our kids who have made it are also good people. Coach Vaughn has always been big on making sure our kids showed good character. He made sure that if they wanted to be a football player they had to be good people.”
Reynolds called it a pleasure to work with Vaughan throughout his career.
“It has been a pleasure working for him in two different situations,” Reynolds said. “I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think about him the way that I do.”
White Hall athletic director Tim Atkinson said that Vaughn will be hard to replace.
“We appreciate Coach Vaughn and all that he has put in during his (48) years in education and coaching of our student-athletes,” Atkinson said. “It takes a very special man to do that. He has touched a lot of lives, and he is going to be very hard to replace.”
Vaughn replaced Charlie Vereen as White Hall head coach in 2004. He recorded 93 wins, 70 losses and two ties during his career as the Bulldogs head coach.