Former Football Coach: Amid report of new job, Hudspeth 'agreed' with firing
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 9, 2017
One night before multiple reports surfaced saying he is going to become the new tight ends coach at Mississippi State, where he worked previously, Mark Hudspeth reflected on being fired by UL following seven seasons on the job.
When the boom was lowered, and UL athletic director Bryan Maggard informed Hudspeth last Sunday that he was being relieved of his duties, the now-former Ragin' Cajuns head coach actually understood.
He had seen what was coming, and — deep down — sensed even himself that it was the right thing to do.
“I told him … I agreed with him,” Hudspeth, speaking publicly for the first time since his dismissal, said during a wide-ranging interview Thursday night. “I said, ‘You know what? I think it’s the right time to hand the baton off.’
“I feel like we’re leaving here with this program better, way better, than we found it, in all aspects, and we had a great run.”
UL went 9-4 and won the New Orleans Bowl each year from 2011-2014, beating San Diego State, East Carolina, Tulane and Nevada on the field (two of those wins later were vacated due to recruiting-related NCAA sanctions).
It also went to the New Orleans Bowl five times in Hudspeth’s first six seasons, losing in 2016 to Southern Mississippi.
But the Cajuns ended with three straight losing seasons under Hudspeth, going 4-8 in 2015, 6-7 in ’16 and 5-7 this year following last Saturday’s 63-14 loss at Appalachian State.
“Bryan has been very supportive throughout the season,” Hudspeth said of Maggard, UL’s first-year athletic director.
“I definitely told Bryan that I felt like he really supported us, and I think he really wanted us to win. I think he saw what we were about. … I don’t think he wanted to let us go.
“I can’t thank him enough for his support. Dr. Savoie (UL President Joseph Savoie) has always been great to me, and I’m just really appreciative of (Savoie) and (former UL athletic directors) Scott Farmer and David Walker giving me the initial opportunity.
“Like I said, I don’t have any animosity whatsoever toward the university,” added Hudspeth, who sent a thank-you letter addressed to the entire ‘Cajun Nation. “I’m just very proud to say I was a Ragin’ Cajun for seven years. … We’ll always have a piece of our heart (here).”
Maggard shared similar sentiments even on the day he fired Hudspeth, when he cited declining attendance and financial support of the program along with inconsistent play on the field as his reasons for recommending to Savoie that Hudspeth be let go.
Hudspeth, Maggard said, “has left this program in a much better place than when he took it over.”
“I think people, at the end of the day,” he added, “are grateful for, and thankful for the body of work that he’s done.”
Maggard said Hudspeth took the news like “a true professional.”
“He understands the business, the nature of it,” he added. “You know, he and I have really established a good working relationship here my first eight or nine months.
“And he knew. He even said to me, ‘I knew, as our new A.D., you wanted me to be successful.’ Because I was not interested in trying to go bring ‘my own person’ in. Had Mark (Hudspeth) and his staff been able to do the things we needed to do, I would have been absolutely happy to work with them continuing.
“He was just very humble, very appreciative of the opportunity,” Maggard added. “(He) really realized he had seven great years here, from just total experience. … He could not have been more first-class.”
Maggard continues to search for Hudspeth’s successor.
Related: 'Move swiftly,' but no rush
Hudspeth, meanwhile, spent a few days after his firing doing some searching of his own.
If he indeed lands at Mississippi State as reported, it would mark a return to one of his former homes. Before taking the UL job, Hudspeth was receivers coach and pass game coordinator for the Bulldogs from 2009-10.
Mississippi State hired a new coach, former Penn State defensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, after Dan Mullen left to take over at Florida.
FootballScoop first reported that Moorhead "plans to hire" Hudspeth, and the (Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion Ledger, citing unidentified "sources," later reported the same, saying Hudspeth "is expected to significantly help with recruiting Louisiana and Mississippi."
Hudspeth, who received a $1.5 million buyout from a contract that had been scheduled to run through the end of 2010, did not respond Friday to requests for confirmation of the reports.
“I definitely want to be a head coach again,” he said Thursday night. “That’s what I do, what I do best.
“Anxious to see where God leads us. When one door closes, another one opens.”
Hudspeth did not show any interest in the head coaching job at fellow Sun Belt Conference-member South Alabama that was filled late this week by Central Arkansas coach Steve Campbell.
But he did seem open to taking an assistant’s job on the Power 5 level before he is a head coach again.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Hudspeth said. "God’s got another place for us planned.”
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