Mississippi Hiring Matt Luke Was The Smart Move
Matt Luke had a broad smile as he strolled to the podium to be introduced as Mississippi’s football coach.
The news conference on Monday had a much more positive vibe than Luke’s introduction as the interim coach. The program was 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. At the time, Luke was the smart choice because of his ties to the Mississippi program. He was an offensive lineman for the Rebels in the 1990’s. His father and brother both played for the school as well.
Luke signed 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. 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 this past Thursday. Many heard the players in the locker room chanting “We want Luke!” during their raucous celebration.
Mississippi athletic 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.
The Ole Miss job will come 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. However, the NCAA expects to release a final ruling in the case in the coming weeks. Hence, 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.
In the end, this was a very smart and effective hire by Ole Miss. They kept a low profile in their coaching search, and they went with someone who knows the program. Matt Luke is the perfect coach to steer the Rebels through the muddy waters. They will be better for it in the long haul.