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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: 94021

Reported Deaths: 2846
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6979155
DeSoto542555
Harrison374372
Jackson339967
Madison321286
Rankin319375
Lee261067
Jones242778
Forrest239570
Washington218171
Lafayette209239
Lauderdale2007124
Bolivar179565
Oktibbeha175450
Lamar163534
Neshoba1540103
Panola144527
Sunflower142144
Lowndes140357
Warren138150
Leflore137080
Pontotoc123616
Pike121348
Monroe118965
Scott116425
Copiah116333
Coahoma112827
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106853
Grenada106235
Yazoo103929
Simpson101443
Union97824
Tate95537
Leake94037
Adams92136
Wayne87721
Pearl River86750
Marion84133
Prentiss81517
Covington80922
Alcorn77511
Itawamba77021
Newton75923
Tallahatchie75718
George75113
Winston72519
Tishomingo66137
Chickasaw65624
Tippah64516
Attala64125
Walthall59425
Clay58117
Hancock56421
Jasper55515
Noxubee54315
Clarke53739
Smith52414
Calhoun50612
Tunica48113
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41814
Perry40918
Quitman3755
Humphreys37315
Stone35711
Greene34617
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32811
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2439
Benton2201
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131988

Reported Deaths: 2304
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19123337
Mobile13122290
Montgomery8688173
Madison763075
Tuscaloosa7323114
Lee575159
Shelby571950
Baldwin508749
Marshall387943
Calhoun337439
Etowah336547
Morgan321426
Houston272722
Elmore255847
DeKalb237119
St. Clair224335
Walker224380
Talladega207726
Limestone200119
Cullman186218
Dallas174926
Franklin174528
Russell17312
Autauga169124
Lauderdale165333
Colbert160926
Escambia156425
Blount156014
Jackson151611
Chilton150227
Dale133343
Covington131127
Coffee12838
Pike11619
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113242
Clarke105517
Marion94828
Butler91138
Barbour8387
Winston71612
Marengo70119
Lowndes64927
Pickens63814
Bibb63610
Randolph62212
Hale61528
Lawrence59220
Bullock59114
Geneva5814
Monroe5768
Cherokee56916
Clay5527
Washington54913
Perry5386
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52411
Crenshaw52331
Macon47820
Henry4754
Fayette4269
Sumter41819
Lamar3532
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3326
Greene30015
Coosa1653
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