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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.

Cases: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
Lowndes6265144
Lamar610784
Lafayette6028117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4770129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4420139
Warren4281118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296876
Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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