Jay Hopson steps down as USM head football coach

Jay Hopson steps down as USM head football coach
Jay Hopson

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - For the fifth time in 13 football seasons, the University of Southern Mississippi will be conducting a search for a new head footbal.

Jay Hopson resigned Monday afternoon after four full seasons and a game to open his fifth that even he admitted “was hard to watch.”

In addition to Hopson’s reishnation, the athletic administration announced that receivers coach Scotty Walden had been named interim head coach.

Hopson had posted a record of 28-23. In his first four seasons, with the Golden Eagles participating in three postseason bowl games.

But USM had lost three consecutive games coming into the 2020 season and then gave up more than 30 points and 500 yards total offense to open the season against a team that was nearly a two-touchdown underdog.

USM athletic director Jeremy McClain said he and Hopson had spent the past few days discussing the direction of the program after Thursday night’s 32-21 season-opening home loss to the University of South Alabama.

“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 in the release.

Hopson, a Vicksburg native who twice had been a USM defensive assistant on Jeff Bower coaching staffs, said in Monday’s release that he was in “total agreement with this change in leadership.”

“After heartfelt discussion with Jeremy, we have come to a mutual agreement for me to step down as head coach,” Hopson said in the release. “… (I) truly believe it is in the best interest of the players, coaches and this entire program.

“I cannot thank (USM President) Dr. (Rodney) 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.”

Hopson was in the middle of a four-year contract he and the university had agreed to in the summer of 2018. The four-year deal expired Jan. 31, 2022, meaning Hopson was under contract through the 2021 season.

Hopson earned a base salary of $500,000 annually, meaning he ould have earned $1 million over the two years remaining on the agreement.

A clause in the contract said the university will pay Hopson 50 percent of his base salary over the remaining contract period if “terminated without cause,” which would mean a $500,000 buyout to eat the last two years remaining in the deal.

Terms of any buyout were not released.

At the time of his extension, Hopson had posted 15 wins over the 2016-17 seasons, which were tied with Curley Hallman’s victories for the most by a USM coach in his first two years.

That included a win at the University of Kentucky to open his tenure, giving USM its first victory over a Southeastern Conference since 2000.

Hopson had gone 13-11 the past two seasons.

Walden, 30, is in his fourth season in Hattiesburg including his second year as co-offensive coordinator.

USM’s receivers coach arrived at USM after spending a season as the head football coach at Division III East Texas Baptist University.

ETBU compiled a 7-3 record under Walden and led the country in scoring offense at 49.9 points per game, while finishing second in total offense (564.3 yards per game) and sixth in passing offense (365.3 yards per game).

Walden took over as head coach at ETBU after serving three years as the school’s offensive coordinator. Prior to ETBU, Walden was offensive coordinator at Sul Ross State in 2012.

The coaching moves were made during an open week for USM.

The Golden Eagles return to the field at 6:30 p.m.on Sept. 19, to open Conference USA play with visiting Louisiana Tech University at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Copyright 2020 WDAM. All rights reserved.