A college football team adding a coach to its staff isn’t noteworthy in itself, but when that coach is Art Briles, who left Baylor amid a sexual assault scandal, it will generate headlines.
Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson tried to add Briles to his staff before being overruled this week by university higher-ups.
Hopson isn’t a big-name coach and Southern Miss isn’t a Power 5 program, but the news that he was seeking to hire Briles drew the media spotlight to Hopson and his history.
Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic did some digging on Hopson and found that he has a history of trying to add people with a history of sexual misconduct to his program.
The Athletic report said Hopson tried to add junior college transfer Charles West even though West had been accused of raping two women at knifepoint in separate incidents in 2015.
Hopson signed West last month but didn’t inform the Southern Miss athletic department of the charges against him. Nor were the accusations listed on his admissions application and West planned on enrolling for the spring semester.
It wasn’t until an athletic department employee came across a Dallas Morning News article on the rape allegations that USM officials were notified and West was denied admission.
Both rape charges were downgraded to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and West was placed on probation. But if he violates the probation at any point over the next four years, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
One could chalk up the Briles and West situations as a coincidence for Hopson, but Auerbach’s report suggests it could be much more than happenstance.
When Hopson was the head coach at Alcorn State from 2012 to 2015, he accepted the transfer of former Air Force player Jamil Cooks.
Cooks had been court-martialed for sexual assault and was found guilty in 2013 of abusive sexual contact.
Hopson also welcomed the transfer of Tip McKenzie, who was kicked out of Vanderbilt following an investigation in which four Commodore players were accused of rape.
McKenzie joined Alcorn State in September 2013, but the backlash led to Hopson kicking him off the team. He then rejoined the team in 2014 and played three seasons for Alcorn State.
Last year, McKenzie accepted a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to facilitation of aggravated rape. He was placed on 10 years’ probation and now has lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Hopson spent 20 years as an assistant coach before getting his first head job at Alcorn. After three straight winning seasons at Alcorn, he jumped to USM, where he also has three straight winning seasons.
He seems to be using the “win at all costs” mentality in order to land better jobs, but his courtship of individuals tied to sexual misconduct is troubling.
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