Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - From the start, Jay Hopson made it a point
to emphasize Alcorn State's school colors are more important than skin color.
"I don't see black or white, we're all purple and gold," Hopson said Monday
after he was introduced as Alcorn State's new head football coach.
In taking over the Braves' struggling program, Hopson became the first white
person to hold the position in the historically black Southwestern Athletic
"This candidate won every round of the interview and he was supported by each
group (of the selection committee)," university president M. Christopher Brown
II said. "Naysayers could only comment on his race."
If it were up to Hopson, that factor would be an afterthought. The 43-year-old
already has put his focus on restoring a program that has endured five
straight losing records, including 2-8 last season before head coach Melvin
Spears Jr. was put on administrative leave and then fired.
But there's no denying Hopson's hiring is historic for both Alcorn State and
the SWAC. The conference has been home to legendary players such as Walter
Payton, Buck Buchanan and Jerry Rice, and coaches such as Eddie Robinson,
Marino Casem and John Merritt. Alcorn State, last a SWAC champion in 1994, has
featured Steve McNair and a certain wide receiver-turned-star-dancer, Donald
Hopson, whose coaching influences have included Bob Pruett at Marshall and
Jeff Bower at Southern Mississippi, will try to carve out his own niche in
Alcorn State history. He will implement a spread-oriented offense and a
multiple defense which will have the ability to go in and out of 4-3 and 3-4
Hopson accepted a contract that will pay him $150,000 in each of the next
three years. A head coach for the first time, he's getting a much later start
on the 2012 season than other first-year coaches. His Braves will open the
campaign on Sept. 1 in Shreveport, La. against Grambling State, the defending
In Five-a-Side -- In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five
answers" with an influential person in the FCS -- Hopson discusses his
historic hiring at Alcorn State.
Let's kick off:
TSN: Can you talk about the significance of being the first white head
football coach at Alcorn State and in SWAC history?
JH: Well, I'm just honored that President Brown and the committee, the alumni,
they chose me to be the head coach. Like I told everybody at the press
conference, my vision's purple and gold, it's not black and white, and we have
a job to do, we've got a lot of work to do. We're certainly on a mission to
get this program back to where it once was.
TSN: With that in mind, how will you go about settling the program after it
had such a difficult season and offseason?
JH: First of all, that's the fun process really that we're in right now. We're
starting the hiring phase of the staff. Of course, we have two months to do
eight months' work, so we're going to be running non-stop just getting the
staff together and getting the kids here for summer conditioning. We have the
fun task of implementing our offense and defense in August, right before the
first game. We've got a tall order in a lot of those things we've got to get
done, but we're going to roll our sleeves up and go to work.
TSN: You mentioned you don't see black or white -- it's all purple and gold --
but President Brown did talk about the challenge of a new situation. Can you
describe how that challenge will affect you going forward?
JH: Like I said, the best thing that I can say, and the most honest thing I
can say, is it's just a complete honor. Dr. Brown chose me. You know, I'm a
football coach, I'm not running for president of the United States. I mean,
our job is now to get these kids in a situation where they're able to compete
for championships. We want to be champion on the field and off the field in
the classroom to develop the total player. I'm going to have to depend on a
good staff, I'm going to have to depend on the alumni that supported me
getting the job as we go through the building phase to support me through
those years. It's a process that, like I told the team, we'll win when we
deserve to win and, hopefully, that's sooner rather than later. But the
reality is, we know where we're at and we know what we have to do to get
TSN: How would you describe your coaching style?
JH: I think I'm a player's coach in the fact that with my office my door is
always open. I feel like you have to be demanding, a little bit more of a
fatherly figure than a brotherly figure. You definitely have to demand...and
you have to demand that the kids do the right things in the classroom and on
the field. But then again, I think you have to have the open-door policy where
they know if they do have problems, if they do have issues, they know they can
always come in and talk to Coach Hop.
TSN: With you becoming head coach, will the recruiting dynamic change at
JH: I don't know, because I'm just going to recruit the best players. Like I
said, it doesn't matter to me if they're black or white, I want to recruit the
best players. I've recruited this area my whole life in Mississippi and
Southwest Mississippi. All the coaches and all the people in the area pretty
much know Jay Hopson. I don't think it's a big transition.
I don't think anything will change. I'm just trying to find the best players
that are the best fit for Alcorn. I think that's important, finding the kids
that want to be here, are comfortable here and want to get their degree and go
out and represent Alcorn in a positive light.
The Sports Network