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Southern Miss fires head coach Jay Hopson

Expectations in Hattiesburg continue to be of the highest order for some reason.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson chats with Trace Clopton during the Armed Forces Bowl against the Tulane Green wave on January 4, 2020 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX. Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An absolute stunner: After just 60 minutes of football in the middle of a pandemic, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles have fired head coach Jay Hopson. The news was first reported by Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.

From a release by Southern Miss:

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Southern Miss Director of Athletics, Jeremy McClain, announced today a transition in leadership for the Golden Eagle football program. McClain has named assistant coach, Scotty Walden, as the interim head coach to replace outgoing coach Jay Hopson.

“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,” said McClain. “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, who was in his fifth season with the Golden Eagles, posted a 28-23 record and guided the program to three bowl games. He opened his Southern Miss head coaching career with a 44-35 victory over Kentucky in Lexington, giving Southern Miss its first victory over an SEC team since 2000. Hopson was also an assistant for the Golden Eagles from 2001-03 and again from 2005-07.

“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,” said Hopson. “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.”

There were extensive rumors online about Hopson’s leaving the program over the weekend, but it’s still a stunner to lose a football coach this early in the season.

The Eagles lost to the South Alabama Jaguars last Thursday night 32-21 as 14-point favorites, missing dozens of tackles and looking somewhat lethargic and unprepared. But this is still a huge stunner. And the oft-outsized expectations of Eagles fans that remember the heady days of Brett Favre and 18 consecutive winning seasons might not recognize their place in the pecking order of modern college football. Southern Miss is a regional public university in a tiny media market with not-great facilities and little national brand.

Hopson was 28-23 as the Eagles head coach since 2016, appearing in three bowl games and never finishing under .500 in any season. Southern Miss hasn’t won a conference championship since Larry Fedora did in 2011 before resigning to go to North Carolina.

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