A SWAC football coach made history just two days into Black History Month.

Former Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson was recently named head coach at Southern Miss.


Hopson became the first SWAC head coach to make the jump from the historically black conference to head coach at an FBS school.

It’s hard to ignore that Hopson accomplished this feat after ironically being the first white head coach to be hired by a SWAC school.

While Hopson’s resume is impressive, leading the once doormat Braves to two SWAC championships, an SBN Black National Championship and a berth in the first-ever Celebration Bowl over four seasons, it is easy to wonder whether a black coach with the same resume would have received a similar opportunity.

Doug Williams, Eddie Robinson, Rod Broadway, James Carson and Pete Richardson all, at one point, dominated the SWAC yet were unable to flip those triumphs into head coaching jobs at Division I schools.

These successful black coaches were more accomplished than Hopson has ever been during his tenure at Alcorn.

But those men did not look like Jay Hopson.

White America was just not ready for a black man to have all that power.

Examining the current state of diversity within the FBS coaching ranks, much hasn’t changed.

The football coach, regardless of the school with the exception of a few, is the face of the university. That guy, by default, becomes the most influential and powerful person on campus.

It is noble progressive for progressives to want schools to hire the best man for the job regardless of his race.

But image, and who represents the football team, matters occasionally more than winning to deep-pocketed boosters and influential individuals associated with the school.

The man holding the whistle and clipboard ultimately represents them, their ideals and values matters.

And it is why black coaches don’t get hired at FBS schools with all things being equal. Some FBS schools don’t want a black man to represent them even if he’s qualified.

There was a divide in the room when Hopson’s name came up as candidate at Alcorn in 2012 because of that very premise.

And there were a lot of alums, and folks elsewhere, who questioned why this white man — whose privilege has historically lied in his skin color — was hired over a black candidate.

A black candidate who has had to historically overcome his skin color to gain the opportunities the privileged white guy has gotten.

 

About The Author

Kendrick Marshall
Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor for HBCU Sports, award-winning journalist, and a graduate of Jackson State University.

21 Responses

  1. CMAC

    Great article. Well said Bro. Marshall. We hire them but they don’t hire us ; harsh truth !!!

    Reply
  2. Louis

    Maybe this guy had better connections that Pete Richardson, Doug Williams, Rod Broadway, etc. Maybe he didn’t split verbs when he spoke nor violate past and present participles when speaking as one of those I mentioned above is notorious at.

    Reply
  3. TigerNatl

    Good article and well said. I think Hopson will be a good coach for USM. However he mention USM was his dream job. He also mention that Alcorn was his dream job when he was hired as the coach. I find that very interesting.

    Hopson also mention on multiple occasions prior to and during the season he was not leaving Alcorn however he was interviewing for coaching jobs behind the scenes. Yes coach’s leave programs all the time but shouldn’t he be held accountable for saying he was not leaving the program but at the same time he was interviewing all along?

    No one in the media is talking about that.

    Reply
  4. DonTiger

    While the strong argument exists that Hopson may not have gotten the same opportunity if he were black, his resume and accomplishments do qualify him for the job. His experience before Alcorn and his success there warrant consideration when analyzing his selection.
    I look at a SWAC coach, ANY SWAC coach, getting a shot at a D-I school as a positive for our conference. And I for one do not want to make his race or past racism against qualified black coaches be the lead sentiment for this great accomplishment for the SWAC.
    When will black people stop making everything about racial bias or lack of acceptance.. STOP WHINNING ABOUT BEING BLACK… STOP WHINNING ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE NOT LOVING YOU LIKE THEIR OWN…
    Go out, do the best that you can do and you can be whatever you want to be.. Whether it’s a D-I coach coming out of the SWAC or President of the United States.
    Black People

    Reply
    • TigerNatl

      DonTiger you make a very good point and well said. However other than Hopson please name a head coach from the SWAC that left the SWAC and was hired as a head coach at a D-1 football program?

      The NFL has a policy where minorities (blacks, latinos etc.,) must be interviewed when there’s a head coaching vacancy and that rule was implemented for a reason. Whether it works or not is another discussion.

      Racism is alive and well and that’s just part of living in the U.S. like it or not. Again, other than Hopson, please name a coach from the SWAC that got hired as a head coach at a D-1 football program? However as I mention in a previous comment. Hopson will be a good football coach for USM and yes it looks good that a D-1 program hired a coach from the SWAC as a head coach. Hopson did well at Alcorn.

      One final note, Hopson was USM’s 3rd option. USM’s leading and 2nd candidate withdrew their applications which left Hopson as the 3rd option.

      Reply
      • DonTiger

        Well TigerNatl, in direct response to the question, I can’t name any other head coach that was hired by a D-1 school from the SWAC other than Hopson.
        But let me ask this. Why is that the question?
        There have been several and there are current African American coaches at D-1 schools right now… Does racism exist in college athletics? Of course. But is it defined by the fact that SWAC coaches have not been hired by D-1 schools? Hard to argue that when Charlie Strong is the head coach of the richest D-1 program in the South. The fact that SWAC coaches have not been hired is partially racism against ANY black person SWAC or not, and partially due to the piss poor product that the SWAC puts on the field. How many SWAC schools have won out of conference in the last 15 years? How many games out of conference combined has our conference won? What do you see when you tune in to a SWAC contest on TV? Quality high level and well coached football? Do we even remotely resemble our white counterparts in that department? Or do we lose by 50?
        In short, racism is what it is. But if you long so much to be accepted by white people, hired by them to work at their schools, then be Charlie Strong, don’t be the same ole “poor black discriminated against” me… Boo hoo.. Stop the dam* whining and go out and get it… That’s what Barack did when it was said ‘they’ didn’t give ‘us’ a chance…

      • TigerNatl

        DonTiger I simply ask you to name a SWAC head coach other than Hopson that was hired as a head coach at a D-1 school. Charlie Strong is not in the SWAC. No one is whining but the Editor simply asked a question and makes an interesting point.

        BTW DonTiger I mention in a prior comment on this article that USM’s current president is black. Did you know that?

        Also the majority of FCS schools and nonpower D-1 conference schools like USM lose by 50 points etc., when they play teams from power 5 conferences. LSU is on their schedule this year and they will lose by at least 40, 50 points etc. No difference if LSU played a SWAC team.

    • JayRob

      So you blame Black people for complaining about inequities in hiring practices? Are you kidding me? ou’re completely ignoring the White elephant in the room.
      Where were you when excellent coaches like Richardson, Broadway and others were overlooked for similar positions?
      I can’t believe Black people are actually calling Blacks “whiners” for questioning hiring practices where 65-70 percent of the players are Black.
      I’m sure you wouldn’t be where you are today if those who came before you didn’t, as you call it, WHINE.
      And there are many Black coaches nationwide who are successful, yet are still being ignored time and time again for FBS jobs?
      And lastly, there are 128 FBS coaching jobs, yet ONLY five of those jobs are taken by Black coaches. Now you do the math.

      Reply
      • DonTiger

        No Rob, I don’t blame black people for racism. I blame black people for making racism the ‘elephant in the room’, the ‘nail in the coffin’, the ‘straw that broke the camels back’, the ‘be all to end all’, the ‘reason he sun rises in the east and sets in the west’ …
        What I am saying is, when a SWAC coach gets a job, is that the appropriate time to whine and complain? ABOUT WHAT? Complaining because he’s white? Why? HE”S OUR COACH ! And the 2 time defending conference champion… So who should USM have hired then? Another SWAC coach… HE BEAT THEM ALL ! So, USM shouldn’t have hired any SWAC coach cause the best one is white? Would that have satisfied the whining? Would that be better? Simply put, a SWAC coach got a job and ‘Nick’ is finding a reason to whine and complain about that. Get over yourselves black people, get to work and get what you want. Stop letting racism be the reason you don’t succeed. Barack, Charlie and JAY HOPSON didn’t let racism be the reason…. JAY CAME TO A SWAC SCHOOL WHEN WE PRACTICE OPEN RACISM AGAINST HIRING WHITE COACHES… He came anyway, won and got a D-1 gig doin it…. Dam black people.. Be Jay Hopson

  5. John

    Negros don’t know when to LEAVE!!! They’ll stay on a “job” for 70 years and never move on. The man is at the height of SWAC football coaching, so he’s moving on. You don’t DIE in a position because you’re too stubborn to move on.

    Reply
    • TigerNatl

      So true John but he’s moving on because he has a chance to make substantially more in salary, incentives etc. Hopson and the current Grambling coach also interviewed for the the University of Louisiana Monroe when he clearly told the university and players he was not leaving Alcorn prior to and during the season.

      We all need to remember that regardless of race, Hopson served as a coach at USM during 2 separate tenures which increased his chances of getting the job.

      Also, USM’s president is black (lol) however I appreciate the Editor responsible for publishing this article because it creates discussion that is relevant.

      Reply
  6. Freeman

    The SWAC and MEAC are training ground for Coaches regardless of race or color. Most are successful, but the important thing is we can take credit for giving them the opportunity to coach.

    Reply
  7. Michael

    When a coach is hired at any Division I football program, typical those programs with large revenue streams first and foremost look to hire a well-established head coach or an up and coming assistant who can take a program to the next level. Generally within the coach ranks, they know when an assistant is ready to lead and will push his credentials as the best option. When the assistant is hired into a head coaching position and turns that program around in a very short time. Mid-majors to big time programs come calling offering lucrative financial packages as compensation. Race is not a factor. It’s winning instantly. Take a look at Charlie Strong. He is currently the head coach at the University of Texas. Strong held numerous assistant coaching positions before becoming a head coach at the University of Louisville in 2010. During his four-year stint at Louisville, he led the Cardinals to a 37–15 record and reached a bowl game each season, including the 2013 Sugar Bowl. Jay Hopson did his job at Alcorn State. In his two years, two conference titles and one black college national title. That is the bottom line in college and pro football.

    Reply
    • TigerNatl

      Michael if it’s not about race why did the NFL implement a requirement that teams interview at least a minority when there’s a head coaching vacancy? Also the NFL is in the process of implementing a rule where teams must interview females for various positions.

      Additionally, why is a coaching group calling for the NCAA to require it’s member schools to interview minorities for all head coaching and leadership positions? Yes in a perfect world it should be about hard work etc. However this is not a perfect world and the playing feel is not equitable.

      Reply
  8. JayRob

    The article was about “White” privilege, not how successful one is as a coach. If it was only about being successful, then Pete Richardson, W.C. Gordon, Rod Broadway and other Black coaches would’ve been at an FBS school years ago.
    The article’s about whether or not the man’s “race” played a part in him being hired.
    If one has the eyes to see and the ability to perceive, the answer’s an emphatic YES, with no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.
    With the school being located in southern Mississippi of all places, that’s puts the icing on the cake.

    Reply
    • DonTiger

      Well Rob, just read this comment after responding to another earlier one.. I have to say that you are correct in regard to the topic of the article, and I do agree that black SWAC coaches with just as good 4 year resume’s in conference as Hopson didn’t get a D-1 jobs in the past.

      Reply
      • DonTiger

        I simply disagree that a white SWAC coach getting a job is an appropriate reason to be upset and cry foul. Why should a SWAC coach of any color getting respect be a bad thing for ‘us’? Who else out of the SWAC should USM have hired? He’s the most qualified in our conference at this time… And if that be the case, then should USM past on him BECAUSE he’s a white SWAC coach? Would that have quieted the hecklers and made them happy if NOONE out the SWAC got a job if it had to be the white man?

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