- Story by Sportstalk Mississippi Ole Miss Beat Reporter Brian Scott Rippee
Ole Miss has fired head football coach Matt Luke, a source with knowledge of the situation has confirmed to SuperTalk Mississippi.
RebelGrove was the first to report the news. Luke went 15-21 (6-18) in three seasons, including a 6-6 mark in 2017 after taking over for former head man Hugh Freeze, who resigned in July before the season.
Luke was tasked with guiding the program through the haze of NCAA sanctions stemming from a half-decade long investigation. Ole Miss’ win-loss record regressed each season under Luke as the Rebels finished off a 4-8 season on Thursday night with a 21-20 loss at Mississippi State on a missed extra point that was aided by a personal foul penalty sophomore wide receiver Elijah Moore after scoring a potentially game-tying touchdown. The incident put the program in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons and was heavily scrutinized by the national media.
The news is the first major decision newly-minted athletics director Keith Carter has made since taking over the reins to the permanent job two weeks ago. Sources indicated to SuperTalk a team meeting will be held at 8 P.M. in which Luke will have an opportunity to address the team one final time.
“After evaluating the overall trajectory of our football program, we did not see enough momentum on the field and determined a change is necessary in order for our student-athletes to compete at the highest level,” Carter said. “While improvements were evident in certain aspects of the program, we are judged ultimately by our record, and, unfortunately, we did not meet the standard of success that we expect from our program. We will always be grateful to Coach Luke for his leadership, particularly from a recruiting, academic and overall culture standpoint. At the same time, winning is important, and we know that we can compete for championships at Ole Miss.”
The school will now conduct a national search for its next head coach. The early signing period for recruits in the 2020 class begins on Dec. 18, and the expectation is that a hire will be made by then.
Ironically, Luke’s final game at the helm came in the same place in which he earned the most impactful win of his short tenure. Ole Miss’ 31-28 win in the 2017 Egg Bowl generated significant momentum for Luke to become the permanent head coach. The school announced him as such three days later.
“I want to thank Coach Luke for his devotion to Ole Miss,” Carter said. “His integrity, class and dedication to this program and our student-athletes is unsurpassed, and we will always appreciate how he stepped up at a time when his university needed him the most. We wish him the very best, and he will always be a cherished member of the Ole Miss family.”
Sources indicated to SuperTalk that Memphis head coach Mike Norvell will center the focus of Ole Miss’ search. Lousiana’s Billy Napier and Appalachian State’s Eliah Drinkwitz are also considered to be strong possibilities. Norvell has compiled a 37-15 record in four seasons and the Tigers recently capped off an 11-1 campaign with a win over Cincinnati on Saturday. Drinkwitz went 11-1 in his first season at Appalachian State and Napier just capped a 10-2 mark in his second year in charge of the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Carter will hold a press conference Monday at 11 a.m.
**This story will be updated as more information becomes available.**