On Sep. 7, the Southern Miss Athletic Department announced that Head Coach Jay Hopson resigned from his position, with Assistant Coach Scotty Walden taking over as interim Head Coach.
Hopson’s resignation comes four days after Southern Miss lost 32-21 to South Alabama in the season opener. Prior to the game, Southern Miss was 75-18-1 against Sun Belt Conference opponents, and listed as 13-point favorites against South Alabama. Rumors of the news began to circle late Sunday before the school officially announced it on Labor Day afternoon.
Hopson was in his fifth season as Head Coach at Southern Miss. During his time at the school, he posted a 28-23 record, becoming one of three coaches in Southern Miss’s history to post four consecutive winning seasons to start their coaching tenure.
However, this streak seemed to have ended, as, including the end of last season, Southern Miss has lost four straight games. Before the start of this season, six players opted out, leaving the team to make last-minute adjustments. Hopson summed up the season opener and his last game as head coach as a “disappointing loss”.
Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain explained the decision in a statement released online.
“Coach Hopson came to me after last Thursday’s game to discuss what was on his heart and after much discussion over the weekend, he and I agreed that new leadership for our football program is needed,” McClain said. “Coach Hopson has been a part of our program for 10 years. I appreciate his commitment to Southern Miss and wish Jay and his family nothing but the best.”
Hopson expressed his mutual agreement with the decision.
“After heartfelt discussion with Jeremy, we have come to a mutual agreement for me to step down as head coach. I am in total agreement with this change in leadership and truly believe it is in the best interest of the players, coaches and this entire program,” Hopson said. “I cannot thank Dr. Bennett and our administration enough for the opportunity that they gave me. I wish Southern Miss nothing but the best and am thankful for all that they have done for me and my family.”
Southern Miss fans had mixed reactions to the change in leadership. Senior history major Ron James says he agrees with the decision.
“I believe Coach Hopson lost the team,” James said. “I think it started late last season then it just bled over to this season. Players transferring is never a good thing.”
McClain has chosen Scotty Walden, Co-Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach, as the interim Head Coach to replace Hopson. Walden, 30, will be the youngest coach at the helm of the football team since Reed Green became head coach in 1937 at the age of 26.
Walden is in his fourth year at Southern Miss. Prior to coaching at the school, he spent time as an Offensive Coordinator at Sul Ross State University and East Texas Baptist University (ETBU). In 2016, he served as Head Coach of ETBU, posting a 7-3 record and leading the country in scoring offense with nearly 50 points per game.
James also voiced his support of Walden as interim Head Coach.
“He’s young[,] but he’s very well respected in the coaching world,” James said. “He’s energetic and I think we need that in the program.”
Southern Miss will play its first game under Walden’s command on Sep. 19 at home against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. This will be the first conference game of the year for Southern Miss.