Ole Miss coach Matt Luke ready to seize 'destination job'

He was named the program's interim coach in July, and led the Rebels to a 6-6 record, including a 3-5 mark in the Southeastern Conference.

Posted: Nov 27, 2017 4:32 PM
Updated: Nov 27, 2017 9:43 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Matt Luke had a broad smile as he strolled to the podium to be introduced as Ole Miss football coach. The cameras flashed, the crowd gave a long standing ovation and Luke's family watched with pride.


The welcome felt much more like the real thing this time.

The 41-year-old Luke was introduced Monday as Ole Miss head football coach — for the second time. He was named the program's interim coach in July, and led the Rebels to a 6-6 record, including a 3-5 mark in the Southeastern Conference.

Ole Miss announced on Sunday that Luke would keep the job on a permanent basis.

"Ole Miss is a destination job," Luke said. "It's not just my dream job, it's a destination job. And I am truly honored to be the head coach at the University of Mississippi."

Luke has a four-year contract that's worth $12.6 million and includes several performance incentives. The school did not release any details about buyout terms for either side.

The news conference on Monday had a much more positive vibe than Luke's introduction as the interim coach, when the program was still reeling from previous coach Hugh Freeze's sudden resignation. Freeze left after a university investigation into his phone records found what the school called personal misconduct.

One reason Luke was asked to be the interim coach was his deep ties to the university. He was an offensive lineman for the Rebels in the 1990s and his brother and dad also played for the school.

Luke said his love for Ole Miss is well-documented, but that's not the reason he feels qualified to lead the program on a long-term basis.

"I wanted to be hired here because I was the right man for the job," Luke said. "I've been playing and coaching at this level for 20 years. I've been under some of the best head coaches in the country and I fully understand what a championship program looks like."

Luke's hiring is undoubtedly popular inside the program. He led the Rebels to an emotional 31-28 upset victory over No. 16 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on Thursday, and players were heard in the locker room chanting "We want Luke!" during a raucous celebration.

Outside the program, the response has been more tepid. Many fans wanted a more well-known leader or at least someone with more head coaching experience.

Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said that he had "extensive conversations" with eight candidates and that interest in the job was significant, but in the end, Luke had the best plan for future success.

"I realize that the easy decision was to hire someone new," Bjork said. "Bring in a splash hire. A big name, if you will. In reality, the hard decision was to drill down, assess our program, what it needs, be strategic and hire the right coach.

"In the final analysis, Matt Luke is the best person, best leader and the best coach."

The Ole Miss job comes with several challenges — most notably the fallout from the NCAA's investigation into the program for rules violations. The Rebels were not eligible for a bowl this season because of a self-imposed postseason ban. They've also self-imposed scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions.

The NCAA is expected to release a final ruling in the case in the coming weeks. The governing body could accept the Rebels' self-imposed sanctions or add to them.

Luke said that the NCAA's judgment won't affect the long-term vision of the program.

"We've been through a lot of adversity and we're going to come through this no matter what," Luke said. "But it's going to take hard work. It's going to take discipline."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
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Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
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Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
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Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
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Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
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Washington746
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