Southern Miss fired head coach Ellis Johnson on Tuesday. Johnson spent just one season as the Golden Eagles’ head coach, suffering through an 0-12 campaign. USM was the only winless team in the Bowl Subdivision.
Just last season, Southern Miss won 12 games en route to the Conference USA championship and a top 20 finish. The program’s one-season turnaround was the worst in college football history, and the most dramatic since Ball State went from 12-2 in 2008 to 2-10 in 2009. The Golden Eagles are missing a bowl game for the first time since the 2001 season.
Johnson spent more than three decades as an assistant coach at stops including Alabama, Clemson, USM, Mississippi State and East Carolina. He was on Larry Fedora’s staff all four seasons Fedora served as Southern Miss head coach and ascended to the vacancy when Fedora departed for North Carolina.
USM closed out the season in a 42-24 loss at Memphis.
“We are really down, we have some issues with depth and personnel,” Johnson told reporters after the season-ending defeat. “We never got better and better and a lot of it was because of the quarterback situation and the injuries at all the positions. It was up and down, up and down. By the time you look at it, this is week 12 and we are no better than we were week two. It was just something we could not get a hold of with all of the personnel issues.”
Johnson was tasked with replacing Austin Davis, who passed for 83 touchdowns and nearly 11,000 yards, while rushing for another 25 scores and 1375 yards in his tenure in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles never established a cohesive offense. Arsenio Favor, Anthony Alford, Ricky Lloyd and Chris Campbell all saw significant playing time with across-the-board mediocre results.