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Southern Miss coach didn’t run Art Briles interview past school leadership first

Amid public outrage over courting the former Baylor coach, Jay Hopson then publicly disagreed with a university statement.

Texas v Baylor Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Southern Miss’ mess boils down to this: head coach Jay Hopson wanted to hire former Baylor head coach Art Briles to his staff. His administration did not.

Briles presided over a Baylor program that was mired in years-long sexual assault scandals with multiple players. A timeline of the scandal can be found here.

Monday, the former Baylor head coach interviewed for the Golden Eagles’ offensive coordinator job. As the news spread, the anticipated public response came swiftly.

By Tuesday night, it was clear Briles did not have administrative support at Southern Miss.

The attempt to hire Briles was conceived and executed solely by Hopson and football staffers, without first broaching the subject with university officials, a source close to Southern Miss confirmed to SB Nation.

A separate source described the situation with a metaphor: “there was not clearance from the tower before they brought [Briles] in for landing.” By Wednesday morning, USM had officially put the kibosh on it in a statement:

We have met with Art Briles regarding a position with the Southern Miss football program. Following that meeting, we informed him that he is not a candidate. The University will have no further comment on the matter.

USM head coach Jay Hopson responded with a statement of his own:

Although I respect the decision of [USM president] Dr. Rodney Bennett, I disagree with it. I am so grateful for the Grace & forgiveness God gives me which allows me to inherit his kingdom, which I do not deserve. I have interviewed Art Briles for an assistant position @ Southern Miss & I believe he is a man who deserves a second chance. He is a man that seemed sincere & humble in his interview & personally he committed no crime.

He may not have acted in the proper protocol, but that would be my JOB at Southern Miss! He was interviewing for an assistant position, even though I believe he will be a Head Coach at a Major Program in the near future. However, I believe he is a man who does love the Lord and deserves a second chance. He was banned from employment in college football for 3yrs and has been punished. I understand both sides have opinions, this is just mine!

This shows football people are often disconnected from the rest of us.

Several other times, Briles has been close to returning to coaching since being fired by Baylor in 2015, but seen the public response force teams to reconsider.

And the American Football Coaches Association invited him to speak in front of thousands of coaches at its annual convention in 2018, only to walk that back.

Briles was a winning football coach, and some football people will value that over the literal crimes he failed to handle properly at Baylor. But it is clear Briles remains too radioactive to sneak in the back door, and for good reasons.

As for what happens with Hopson and his bosses, that remains to be seen.

What Hopson did could easily be interpreted as insubordinate. It’s already blown up in his face because he hasn’t gotten his man. More fallout could come in the aftermath.

Compounding the situation is that Hopson’s wife is being outspoken on Twitter as well.

There is not much to gain for publicly blasting your superiors on Twitter after you touched off a PR fiasco in the first place.

Interim AD Jeff Mitchell and Bennett will deal with the aftermath. Briles might get a second chance at some point, but it won’t be at Southern Miss.