To be honest, it had started to feel a little disingenuous to write for the blog during football season.
I just couldn’t pretend I was following this team enough to know its intricacies. I hadn’t watched many games last year and only watched occasionally this season.
Before we get to that, let me take a step back.
My interest in sports, and especially Ole Miss sports didn’t really start in earnest until I got to school in 2002. I specifically remember the moment when I realized I had truly become a fan: I listened to Eli Manning lead the Rebels to a victory over Nebraska in the Liberty Bowl while I was driving down Highway 7. From that moment, for whatever reason, I was hooked. I dove in headfirst and learned everything about the team, recruiting, and Ole Miss’ history.
I don’t want to spend too much time on my back story because its boring, and also you had your own path to Rebel fandom. However you bought in, you did. Whenever that occurred, it was real.
If you’re like me, you waited with baited breath for Eli Manning to announce he was returning for his fifth year. You watched Robert Lane’s signature pop up on the signing board at Abner’s. You endured Ed Orgeron. You endured Houston Nutt. You celebrated the highs and were exasperated by the lows of Hugh Freeze. Many of you were fans long before I was.
But when Matt Luke was made the permanent hire, something changed, at least for me and many of you.
It wasn’t specifically Matt Luke. It was simply the reality of which he was a byproduct: Ole Miss hired coaches and administrators who would benefit the power players of the university, or who some people thought were good, “Ole Miss” people. Being the best athletic program we could be wasn’t really the objective.
And then came the crushing defeats. And the awful timeout usage. And the inability to reach 6-6 in year 2 with an offense full of NFL impact rookies. And losing 62-7 to Alabama. And, well, you get it.
When the rumors stared swirling that he was back next year no matter what, that was the last straw. I spent more time on other hobbies… things that would make me happier more often.
But just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.
The last week went entirely differently than I had prepared myself for. First of all, the idea of Ole Miss that I had built in my head wasn’t supposed to fire Matt Luke. Ole Miss also wasn’t supposed to act quickly or decisively. It certainly wasn’t supposed to hire someone splashy or interesting. Ole Miss in the past would have pursued someone who was a good dude from the South and probably played for or at least coached at Ole Miss previously. It certainly wouldn’t hire someone born in Lincoln, Nebraska! Or someone who had spent the majority of his coaching career in California (home of the libs).
All of a sudden, with one fell swoop, Ole Miss feels different. It feels dedicated to winning. Progress over access for the first time ever.
I had dinner with some other Ole Miss friends last night who had planned not to really do much next season. They were resigned to our fates just a little over a week ago. Last night, there was talk of getting the group together to see the opener in Houston and going to College Station to watch the Rebels play A&M. If the Rebels needed to do something to get people to pay attention again, they did.
Maybe this experiment fails, but you can’t fault anyone involved for swinging for the fences and playing with the big boys.