Southern Miss

Report: Southern Miss football coach failed to disclose rape allegations against recruit

Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 15, 2019, after the Sun Herald discovered that Charles West was no longer on probation as of Dec. 20, 2018.

A new report by The Athletic brings into question Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson’s track record of giving second chances to both players and coaches with troubled pasts.

Thursday’s report comes a day after Hopson was denied the opportunity by USM administration to hire former Baylor coach Art Briles, who has been out of a college coaching job since he was fired by Baylor in May of 2016 amid a probe into allegations of sexual assault by his players.

The Athletic’s report is centered around Charles West, a junior college football player who was previously accused of raping two women at knife-point in separate incidents in 2015.

The Athletic cites two unidentified sources saying that the USM football program signed West in January and Hopson did not inform athletic department officials of previous charges against the player. The accusations were also not included on his admissions application. According to the report, West planned to enroll last month for the spring semester.

USM officials were not aware of the accusations against West until an athletic department employee came across a Dallas Morning News article on the rape allegations, according to The Athletic. He is not currently a student at the school.

A USM athletic department spokesperson told the Sun Herald that West signed a grant in aid, but was declined admission to the school after the discovery of information by staff members in the athletic department.

Hopson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Sun Herald.

West originally committed to BYU out of Coppell High School in the Dallas area, but he never arrived on the Provo, Utah, campus after he was arrested in February of 2015. Both cases were later downgraded to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to a Dallas Morning News report.

Prosecutors and West agreed to plea deals that allowed him to enter probation that won’t lead to a conviction as long as he avoids trouble for four years.

Court documents show that West was released from probation on Dec. 20, 2018, and that “all proceedings in this case against the defendant, are hereby dismissed.”

Prosecutors initially moved forward with the case against West after a knife was discovered in his garage. The case fell apart for prosecutors when both women claimed they were “having a hard time testifying in front of her attacker,” the Dallas Morning News reports.

The Athletic’s report also makes mention of two players who joined the Alcorn State football program when Hopson was the head coach there from 2012-2015. Both of their controversial arrivals at the Lorman, Mississippi, school have been well documented by media reports

Defensive end Jamil Cooks transferred to Alcorn State for the 2014 season from the Air Force Academy, where he was court-martialed for sexual assault, according to an ABC News report. He was found guilty in April 2013 of abusive sexual contact, according to ABC News.

Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, a Woodville native, avoided jail time after he accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to a charge of facilitation of aggravated rape in May of 2018 after he was tied to a sexual assault case involving fellow Vanderbilt football players. He faces 10 years probation after testifying against his three co-defendants, who he helped carry a woman into a dorm room after a night out drinking with a co-defendant. He took photos and videos as three men raped the woman.

McKenzie was kicked off the Alcorn State team in September of 2013 after his transfer to the school garnered media attention.

McKenzie rejoined the Alcorn State football team for the 2014 campaign and played three more seasons for the Braves, registering 73 career catches for 790 yards and four touchdowns.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.