Southern Miss football will now have a third new head coach at the helm this year.
As first reported by Yahoo Sports, interim coach Scotty Walden has accepted the head coach position at Austin Peay.
Walden will leave Southern Miss immediately, and assistant head coach Tim Billings will now serve as Southern Miss’ interim coach. Walden had previously taken the job after Jay Hopson resigned after the program’s loss to South Alabama.
Walden is able to take the Austin Peay job since the program has played its three non-conference games this fall. The Ohio Valley Conference will play out its football schedule in the spring.
Southern Miss Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain issued a statement in a press release.
“We are excited for Scotty and his family as they begin this new journey and we wish them nothing but the best,’ McClain said. “As we adjust, I have asked Tim Billings to take over the interim head coach role and I have full confidence in his ability to successfully lead our team for the rest of the season.”
Billings stepped into the interim coach’s role this past week after Walden tested positive for COVID-19 and could not travel for the Golden Eagles’ game against Liberty.
According to Billings, he learned of Walden’s departure on Monday.
“Scotty came into my office (Monday) afternoon and talked to me and told me his situation. He talked to (McClain) and felt bad about leaving at this time and asked if I would lead the team. He thought that I should be the one. I had to think about it because this isn’t what I wanted to do or be.”
The 41-year coaching veteran worked previously as an assistant coach at Missouri, Oklahoma, Marshall, Wake Forest and Memphis. Billings was also the head coach at Southeast Missouri State from 2000-2005, where he finished 25-44 before resigning to become Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator in 2007.
For Billings, who is the only coach remaining, from Hopson’s initial coaching staff in 2016, the goal is not drastically change the team culture and simply focus on winning.
“I’m just going to be myself and keep the program the way it has been,” Billings said. “I want to have as little change as possible. They don’t need any more change than they have gone through.”
According to quarterback Jack Abraham, who said he expected to play against Rice on Saturday after missing the Liberty game, he learned of Walden’s departure on social media.
“I saw it on Twitter,” Abraham said. “Somebody sent me a link. It sucked finding out like that and I know they didn’t mean for that to happen. It really is unfortunate.
“I thought the meeting we had was positive overall. Each coach said what they needed to say and I think everybody responded well.”
Abraham simply describes Billings as a coach that has vast experience.
“I haven’t been around him a lot, but you can tell he is a coach that has been around the game for a while,” Abraham said. “He is very smart and mature.”
According to Billings, he understands the that current interim coach position is temporary.
“I know that I’m not going to be the next head coach here and that’s fine,” Billings said. “I hope they pick a great football coach here for these young men. They need it. This is a great university and town. I’m just here to, hopefully improve what we have here now and keep our tradition alive.”
Southern Miss holds a 1-4 record and will host Rice on Saturday.