After Hugh Freeze stepped down as Ole Miss’ head coach on Thursday amid troubling rumors linking him to an escort service, athletic director Ross Bjork and chancellor Jeffrey Vitter held a press conference to announce that offensive line coach Matt Luke would be named the interim head coach for the 2017 season.
Earlier this year, Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss announced that they were self-imposing a one-year postseason ban after the NOA was released citing multiple NCAA violations. Bjork mentioned in his press conference that Freeze’s resignation was based on a “pattern of personal misconduct” and had nothing to do with said NCAA violations.
Despite the recent allegations against Freeze and Ole Miss, he went 39–25 in five seasons as Rebels head coach, improving his win total every year and taking Ole Miss to the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1970. Unfortunately, the team went just 5–7 last season and the dumpster fire ignited from there.
Who is Matt Luke?
The interim coach named is none other than Ole Miss alum, former player and legacy Matt Luke. His father, Tommy, was a defensive back at Ole Miss in the 1960’s, his brother, Tom, was a quarterback in Oxford from 1989-91 and is now on the Ole Miss football staff as assistant athletics director for player development.
Luke is native of Gulfport, Miss. and Luke played four seasons (1995-98) as a center at Ole Miss. He started 33 career games for the Rebels, served as team captain in 1998 and was a key cog for the squad that defeated Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl. After concluding his playing career in Oxford, he made coaching stops at Murray State (2000-2001), Duke (2008-2011) and three separate stints at Ole Miss, spanning from 2002-2005, 2006-2007 and 2012-present.
Not only was Luke a player at Ole Miss in the mid-90’s, he was a player during a probationary period in Oxford. Both athletic director Warner Alford and head football coach Billy Brewer lost their jobs as a result of an NCAA investigation that uncovered lack of institutional control, improper benefits to athletes during official visits, official visits and offers of plane tickets and cars to prospects by staff members and boosters. So needless to say, he is fit to help guide this team during this difficult year of scandal and a one-year bowl ban.
As a coach, Luke’s offensive line has been very talented on paper due to his ability to recruit at an extremely high level. During his time at Ole Miss he has been a huge part in signing the likes of five-stars Laremy Tunsil and Greg Little, four-stars Austin Golson, Aaron Morris, Javon Patterson, Rod Taylor and JUCO standout Fahn Cooper. Despite the lofty crootin rankings, his running game has struggled at times due to inconsistencies with play-calling and scheme.
What does this promotion mean?
It’s obvious that Bjork and Vitter went with someone who has been around the program for some time, someone who is familiar with the university and landscape of the conference and a hometown guy in order to find some sort of stability through this trying time of transition. It is also something to note that new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff was named associate head coach, reflecting those same reasons since he has been on staff at Ole Miss before and recently served a stint on Auburn’s staff.
Bjork reiterated that Luke met with the coaches and the players after the news broke and spoke with them about what they will do moving forward, ya know, since football is 44 days away. The longevity he has had with the program, the town and the university made him a rather easy choice to take the reins for the time being.
This is not the worst timing in the world for Freeze to leave and Luke to be named the interim since this year is sort of a freebie as is. Now, the question remains: when will Ole Miss begin the search for their head coach for the 2018 season?