The first job opening in college football has arrived before the first full weekend of games.
Jay Hopson stepped down as the Southern Mississippi head coach on Monday, sources told Yahoo Sports. He’ll be replaced by Scotty Walden, the 30-year-old co-offensive coordinator, who sources told Yahoo Sports will be the interim coach.
Hopson didn’t appear at the Southern Miss football building on Monday, as the staff was unsure whether he’d coach practice on Monday afternoon. He never made it there, meeting with the coaching staff around 4 p.m. ET to tell them he was out.
Hopson had a respectable 28-23 record and appeared in three bowl games in four seasons. But entering this season, Southern Miss opened with a home blowout loss, 32-21, to South Alabama in a game where the Golden Eagles were favored by more than two touchdowns.
Four days after that nationally televised debacle, Hopson is out as head coach. In a remarkable stat fitting for 2020, Southern Miss has a head coach vacancy even before a majority of the sport has kicked off the season.
The first job to open on the 2019 coaching carousel was Rutgers, which fired Chris Ash on Sept. 29. That was considered early, but Southern Miss’ opening tops that. It’s especially remarkable considering that fellow Conference USA team Rice announced on Saturday that it’d yet to conduct a practice. Just another bizarre turn for 2020.
Walden is the former head coach at East Texas Baptist University, where he was the country’s youngest head coach at age 26 in 2016. Walden was promoted to co-offensive coordinator at Southern Miss in February of 2019 and is regarded in Texas circles as one of the bright young coaching minds in the profession.
Hopson clashed with university president
While Hopson had modest success at Southern Miss, his tenure was viewed much more closely for issues off the field than success on it. He sparred openly with the university president after attempting to hire Art Briles as the offensive coordinator in February of 2019. Hopson released a bizarre statement in the aftermath, noting that he disagreed with the president.
Soon after, The Athletic reported a story that Southern Miss recruited a junior college player accused of raping two women at knifepoint without disclosing the accusations to his administration. After the recruit’s past arose publicly, The Athletic reported that the player was denied admission.
Hopson was hired by former USM athletic director Bill McGillis, who is now the athletic director at San Diego. Southern Miss AD Jeremy McClain will make the next hire.
The Hopson hire was strange from the start, as he’d had success at Alcorn State but was generally off the radar. Southern Miss has a solid history as it’s a place where Jeff Bower dominated (1991-07), Larry Fedora thrived (12-2 in 2011) and Todd Monken showed promise (9-5 in 2015) before scooting to the NFL.
(The notable exception here was the school’s epic miss on Ellis Johnson, who went winless in 2012.)
The school has been hamstrung by financial issues. Hopson’s $500,000 annual salary ranked lowest among Conference USA coaches last season.
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