Southern Miss will not hire Art Briles for its coaching staff after meeting with the former Baylor coach about its offensive coordinator vacancy, despite Briles having the public backing of Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson.
"We have met with Art Briles regarding a position with the Southern Miss football program," the school said in a statement Wednesday morning. "Following that meeting, we informed him that he is not a candidate. The university will have no further comment on this matter."
Hopson, who interviewed Briles for the job, issued a statement disagreeing with university president Rodney Bennett regarding Briles' candidacy.
"I have interviewed Art Briles for an assistant position @ Southern Miss & I believe he is a man who deserves a second chance," Hopson wrote in his statement. "He is a man that seemed sincere & humble in his interview & personally he committed no crime. He may not have acted in the proper protocol, but that should be my JOB at Southern Miss! He was interviewing for an assistant position, even though I believe he will be a Head coach at a Major Program in the near future."
Hopson later wrote of Briles: "He has been banned from employment in college football for 3yrs and has been punished."
Briles, who has not worked in college football since Baylor fired him in June 2016 following an investigation into the football program's sexual assault scandal, also issued a statement to Stadium.
"I appreciate the trust and support of Coach Hopson," Briles said in the statement. "I was informed by the interim AD today that the ongoing NCAA investigation with Baylor and me was the main reason [for not being hired at Southern Miss]."
One day after he failed to hire Briles, Hopson's recruiting practices also came into question Thursday, when The Athletic reported that he attempted to add junior college transfer Charles West. West was accused of raping two women at knifepoint in separate incidents in 2015. The sexual assault cases were downgraded to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after the two women declined to testify in a trial. West agreed to plea deals in each case in 2016, pleading guilty but receiving deferred adjudication probation.
According to The Athletic, Hopson did not notify Southern Miss of West's past, and the school didn't learn of the sexual assault cases until after West signed in early January. His application was then denied by the admissions office, the report said.
Briles is facing Level I NCAA violations stemming from his time at Baylor and will appear before the NCAA's infractions committee this spring. He interviewed with Southern Miss on Monday, the (Biloxi) Sun Herald first reported.
Briles, whose record-setting offenses helped Baylor to a co-Big 12 championship in 2014 and 51 wins in his final five seasons with the Bears, was hired in August as head coach of the Guelfi Firenze team in the Italian Federation of American Football. Guelfi Firenze is set to begin its season next month.
Southern Miss was widely criticized for considering Briles for its offensive coordinator spot.
On Tuesday, the university's Committee on Services and Resources for Women sent a letter to university provost Steven Moser and interim athletic director Jeff Mitchell.
"Based on Mr. Briles' affiliation with Baylor's football team during a time when some members were implicated in a number of sexual assaults and the promotion of a rape culture while he held a position of authority, we are adamantly opposed to the University of Southern Mississippi's hiring of Mr. Briles," the letter read.
Michelle Hopson, Jay Hopson's wife, addressed the reaction to a potential Briles hire on social media, tweeting #secondchances.
The CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats briefly hired Briles as an assistant in August 2017 before announcing he would not join the staff. Team owner Bob Young called Briles' hiring a "large and serious mistake."
Baylor's handling of sexual violence allegations and other complaints involving students and football players has been heavily scrutinized over the past two years.
Ten Title IX lawsuits have been filed against the university by a total of 22 women -- including 20 who alleged being either sexually assaulted or physically assaulted -- and four of the complaints have been either settled or dismissed.