Former Baylor coach Art Briles will not be making his return to the FBS ranks of football after all. Following reported interest from Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson to be the team's next offensive coordinator, the school released a statement from both the university president Rodney D. Bennett and interim athletics director Jeff Mitchell addressing the matter.
"We have met with Art Briles regarding a position with the Southern Miss football program," the statement read. "Following that meeting, we informed him that he is not a candidate. The University will have no further comment on the matter."
That "no further comment" did not extend all the way to Hopson, who decided to release his own statement in support of Briles and against the decision not to hire him as an assistant coach.
"Although I respect the decision of Dr. Rodney Bennett, I disagree with it," Hopson said Wednesday. "I am so grateful for the grace and 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 at Southern Miss and I believe he is a man who deserves a a second chance."
Hopson described Briles as a man who "may not have acted in the proper protocol" at Baylor, but "personally he committed no crime." The Southern Miss coach went a step further to say that proper protocol would be his job, not Briles' responsibility, but maintained that "he will be a head coach at a major program in the near future."
Briles was offered a chance to comment himself, and he told Stadium's Brett McMurphy that he was informed by Southern Miss that the ongoing NCAA investigation into Baylor's football program was the main issue preventing him from being hired.
In a statement to @WatchStadium, former Baylor coach Art Briles: “I appreciate the trust and support of Coach Hopson - I was informed by the Interim AD today, that the ongoing NCAA investigation with Baylor and me was the main issue (on not being hired at Southern Miss)”— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) February 6, 2019
The NCAA is still currently investigating the Baylor athletic department, and the school has settled five Title IX lawsuits over allegations from former students.
One such lawsuit filed against the school alleged 52 "acts of rape" were committed by 31 different Baylor football players from 2011-14 during Briles' tenure at the school.
Briles has most recently been working as the head coach for a team in the Italian Federation of American Football. In 2017, he was briefly hired by the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats as an assistant but was let go after the franchise received criticism for making the move.