By Tim Ward
The buzz around Alcorn State University football hasn’t been the same since the late Steve McNair ran around the reservation. Sure there has been a moment or two, but nothing to really hold onto for an entire season.
Well Braves fans and alumni, bring out your tomahawks because Alcorn has hired the first white head football coach in school history. As a matter of fact, this is the first non-black head football coaching hire in SWAC history.
The man to lead the Braves onto the field this season is Jay Hopson. Hopson is an Ole Miss graduate who played football from 1988-1991. He has served on several coaching staffs at such schools as Marshall, Delta State, Southern Miss. and Michigan to name a few. Hopson, 43, said, “I don’t see black or white, we’re all purple and gold.”
Landing a head coaching job is a nice bounce back for Hopson who was fired early last season as defensive coordinator in Memphis. Most coaches have to prove themselves again before getting a head coaching spot.
Besides his background at several good football programs, Hopson brings another very crucial skill to the table. With the NCAA raising academic requirements, coaches will have to do more than just coach on the football field, especially SWAC schools which normally do not have the budget to employ a full-time staff only dedicated to the football or sports teams. Many schools have assistants who help, but not a full staff.
Hopson was named to the Academic ALL-SEC four times. If the school’s APR falls below the required number, those sports programs with the unsatisfactory score will not be eligible for post season play. This ruling affected Jackson State in football last season and had some Tiger fans questioning Coach Comegy’s ability to lead off the field as well as on.
Hopson’s first game will be Sept. 1 against Grambling State University in the Port City Classic. How ironic both schools come into the game with historical coaching hires permanently attached to their names.
The late Coach Eddie Robinson coached at Grambling State for 57 years registering 408 wins. At the time of his death, he held the record for wins. He is now ranked number two behind the late Coach Joe Paterno.
Hopson enters as the first white head football coach in SWAC history with all the attention focused on him.