Who will be the one to bring the next level of success to Southern Miss?
The infamous question that hovered around Hattiesburg, MS, after former head coach Todd Monken left the Golden Eagles for a NFL position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After a 9-5 season and bowl appearance, many Golden Eagles were aghast to hear about the departure of Monken. Monken’s success is not a small aspect to overlook. In a season alone, the Golden Eagles went from 3-9 in 2014 to 9-5 in 2015.
The turnaround season brought back hope to Golden Eagle fans as Southern Miss had not had the best off luck in years prior. The unnerving fan base was a lot more active in the 2015 season when the Golden Eagles started accumulating wins and restoring the prestigious tradition of winning at Southern Miss.
Well, while all this success was coming Southern Miss way, another individual was mirroring similar success at another university.
Jay Hopson served as a graduate assistant, linebacker coach and defensive coordinator at a plethora of colleges and universities. But is was not until 2012, where Hopson would get his chance at the top spot.
From 2012-2015, Hopson served as the first non-minority head coach in the SWAC at Alcorn State University.
Not only was history being made with the cultural barrier but on the gridiron as well. The first year may not have been as projected, as the Braves finished the 4-7. But the next three years would prove to be what Alcorn State looked to get out off Hopson. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons all consisted of nine-plus win seasons and two consecutive SWAC championships.
Many may look over the fact that Hopson was the first ever non-minority to coach a SWAC school. Hopson had much to prove as the school hit a rough patch of consecutive seasons with horrific records. In 2010, the Braves managed to go 7-14 and in 2011, the Braves only managed to record two wins, ending the season with a 2-8 record.
Selling the same story of how great he could make Alcorn would not be enough to a team who may have heard that for years prior to Hopson’s arrival. Actions speak louder than words and actions would be the exact thing Hopson would have to show to prove himself to this team.
Improving by two wins in his first year, there was a start but still is a losing record at the end of the day. But improving upon that and producing a 10-win season and winning a SWAC championship is a milestone that speaks for itself.
Similar to Monken, Hopson’s success at Alcorn State is far from mediocre. But the question still remains: Who is Jay Hopson? And what can he bring to the Southern Miss football program?
Prior to his success at Alcorn State, Hopson saw success with teams such as Florida, Marshall, Ole Miss (his alma mater) and Southern Miss previously. Hopson helped to capture four consecutive Motor City bowl championships (now known as the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl) with Marshall as a defensive backs coach from 1997-2000. Hopson also was part of the 2002 Southern Miss coaching staff, featuring a 33-23 loss to Oklahoma State.
Hopson has a track record of winning all throughout his resume. But many may still wonder if he has what it takes to bring Southern Miss to that next level.
“I love coaching, we have some great kids who are working hard,” Hopson said. “When I first got here, the guys had a Southern Miss spirit. I love being around those guys. I love every part of coaching.”
If anything can be proved, it is that Hopson has always found Southern Miss as home. He took a $250,000 pay cut from Monken’s contract, something many other coaches would not have done. Players and the new coaching staff have taken to Hopson and have bought into his gameplan of making Southern Miss greater than they were before.