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USM should be thankful for decision by Bennett

Though some fans probably disagreed with the decision, USM President Rodney D. Bennett made the right call by stepping in to cut off talks with Art Briles about a position on the football staff.

USM coach Jay Hopson disagrees with his boss, and made it crystal clear in a statement following Bennett’s decision.

For those unfamiliar with Briles, he is the former head coach of Baylor. He is a successful coach who knows how to win. He would have helped the Golden Eagles no matter what role Hopson stuck him in. But Briles has plenty of baggage.

He was fired from Baylor after an external investigation revealed that Baylor had mishandled numerous sexual assault allegations by students, including some against football players. The investigation found at least 17 women who reported being sexually assaulted by 19 football players, The Associated Press reported.

Briles maintained that he did not cover up reports and that he encouraged women to go to the police.

Hopson obviously felt Briles had been unfairly fired, and believed that he was a good man.

“He is a man that seemed sincere & humble in his interview & personally he committed no crime,” Hopson said in a text message statement, The Associated Press reported. “He may not have acted in the proper protocol, but that would 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.”

So there you have it. Hopson felt he could land a coaching bargain — a man with ample head coaching experience for the price of an assistant. There’s no doubt Briles would have helped Hopson win.

This wasn’t about second chances, or the grace and forgiveness that Hopson referenced in his statement. This was about winning football games, plain and simple. Briles can be forgiven. Briles can be given grace. But that doesn’t mean he needs to be in a position of authority on a college campus.

Bennett, who has spoken to civic clubs in Brookhaven, obviously has more to worry about than winning football games. He has the university’s reputation to consider. He has the safety of students to consider. He has more to consider than the success of the football program.

The university — and its fans — should be grateful for Bennett’s leadership. Had Briles been hired, he would have brought negative national attention to Hattiesburg and he likely would have hung around just long enough to tarnish the school’s reputation.

For once it seems, something other than winning football games came first.