Southern Miss has been in the market for a new head football coach longer than any other Football Bowls Subdivision team in this bizarre 2020 season.
Matter of fact, the Golden Eagles have been seeking a new direction for their program longer than most major colleges have been playing this season.
USM parted with coach Jay Hopson on Sept. 7, just days after the Golden Eagles lost by double-digits at home to South Alabama, which had entered the contest as a two-touchdown underdog on Las Vegas gaming lines.
Late last month, after USM made clear it would conduct a thorough search to find Hopson's replacement, then-interim coach Scotty Walden accepted the head coaching post at Football Championship Subdivision program Austin Peay, the reigning Ohio Valley Conference champion.
So where does USM now turn?
Tim Billings is the current interim, interim head coach, and he'll receive consideration; but with the way Southern Miss is searching it would be a major surprise to all involved if Billings were to be offered the position.
A handful of names have emerged, including but not limited to South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson, Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall, Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack, Baylor defensive coordinator Ron Roberts and Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, though Lashlee is helping lead Miami's resurgence into the top 10 of the national polls and is expected to have myriad options, should he decide he wants to take the next step in his coaching career. Alabama defensive assistants Karl Scott and Pete Golding, the Tide's defensive coordinator, also have been tabbed as being on the Golden Eagles' wish-list of vetted candidates.
Per multiple coaches, the school has conducted some phone/Zoom interviews in recent weeks. Additionally, we are told that Southern Miss President Dr. Rodney Bennett has spoken with Maryland head coach Mike Locksley, who in August announced that he helped found and launch the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches to help increase hiring of minority candidates at both the collegiate and professional levels.
A Miami native who starred at Auburn and briefly played safety in the NFL, Robinson also has past ties to the Southern Miss. He was on the staff of Larry Fedora in 2009, as Fedora was launching a run with the Golden Eagles that catapulted Fedora into the head coaching job at North Carolina.
Robinson also has strong ties throughout the South after stints at his alma mater, as well as Florida, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky.
The 40-year-old Hall is native Mississippian whose father, Bobby Hall, had a distinguished high school coaching career in the state. Hall led Division II programs West Alabama and West Georgia to success, transitioned to the FBS level with stops at Louisiana and Memphis before spending the past two seasons as the Green Wave offensive coordinator.
Wommack's star is ascending as Indiana's second-year defensive coordinator and in his third season on Tom Allen's Hoosiers staff. Indiana has jumped to a No. 10 ranking in the AP Top 25 on the strength of victories against Michigan and Penn State, both of which were ranked at the time the Hoosiers toppled them. Wommack also spent time on Hugh Freeze's staff at Ole Miss, got his coaching start for Jason Simpson – a Southern Miss grad – at UT-Martin and was South Alabama's defensive coordinator for two seasons (2016-17).
Roberts has deep ties to the Magnolia State, most notably during his run atop the Delta State football program. Roberts led the Statesmen to an NCAA Division II runner-up finish in 2010, the semifinals in 2011 and also posted four 10-win seasons in his tenure and also served as head coach at Southeastern Louisiana.
Karl Scott and Pete Golding were both members of Roberts' staff at Delta State. They went on to join Roberts at Southeastern Louisiana. Multiple seasons coaching on Nick Saban's staff has only helped these men refine their craft.
We plan to keep you updated as this search narrows.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.