Southern Miss interim coach Scotty Walden is set to become the new coach at Austin Peay. A press conference for the new hire will take place on Monday, Nov. 2. At just 30 years old, Walden is the youngest head coach at the Division I level.
"Today, we welcome one of the most energetic and innovative young coaches in the country to lead our football team," said athletic director Gerald Harrison in a statement. "In Coach Walden, we have found a man who is passionate about the student-athlete experience, energized about being part of the university and Clarksville-Montgomery County community, and excited to join us in our relentless pursuit of excellence.
"Scotty is a new-age CEO for a new era of college football. He is a tireless worker, a motivator, a dogged recruiter, and a person who possesses an infectious personality that will lead us back to the OVC Championship and beyond. I am thrilled to welcome Scotty, Callie, and Luca to the Austin Peay family, and I look forward to our opportunity to officially welcome them Monday."
Per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, Southern Miss assistant Tim Billings will be the school's third head coach this season. Billings, the team's defensive coordinator, is in his fifth season with the program.
Walden took over as interim coach of the Golden Eagles one game into the season after coach Jay Hopson resigned following a 32-21 loss to South Alabama. He has been on the sideline for three games -- two losses against Louisiana Tech and Tulane and a win over North Texas -- but missed the game against Liberty due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. Southern Miss, 1-4, has also had two games postponed due to COVID-19.
Austin Peay has navigated the 2020 season without its coach, Mark Hudspeth, who resigned before the start of the season due to personal reasons. The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reported that Hudspeth was already serving a 20-day suspension from June 17 to July 10 for "conduct that is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach and which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the University or its athletic programs in any material way."
Austin Peay, which played three games this fall, has a spring football schedule to prepare for in the Ohio Valley Conference starting in February.
Walden's ascent in the coaching ranks is one of college football's wildest stories. He joined the Southern Miss program four years ago as an assistant after spending one season as the head football coach at Division III East Texas Baptist University. He also previously served as the offensive coordinator at East Texas Baptist and Sul Ross State. In his first year at Sul Ross in 2012, Walden's offense led the entire NCAA, averaging 581.9 yards per game and 48.8 points per game.