Matt Luke is perfect choice for Ole Miss head coach
Matt Luke, the new full-time head coach of the Rebels, is the best leader for Ole Miss.
Sunday night, Ole Miss dropped the “interim” tag and Matt Luke became the official head coach of the Rebels. The announcement was made by Vice Chancellor for Athletics Ross Bjork as he introduced Coach Luke as the new head coach in the Rebels’ team meeting.
On Monday morning, Luke was officially introduced to the media and the public as the head coach of the Rebels. Luke, who took over as interim coach after Hugh Freeze’s resignation on July 20, went 6-6 in his first season, finishing the year with a big upset win over No. 16 Mississippi State in Starkville in the 2017 Egg Bowl.
Most would agree that Luke did a very good job under extremely adverse conditions as the team and program endured many obstacles this year–Freeze resigned just a few weeks before the season opener; the NCAA investigation into the program continued and created a frenzy of negative publicity and uncertainty; starting QB Shea Patterson’s season ended in week 7 after a knee injury against LSU; and, the team was not eligible to attend a bowl game after self-imposing a one-year ban.
The odds were heavily stacked against Luke and the 2017 Rebels.
While the Rebels did struggle at times, Luke did a fantastic job of helping his kids grow as players and as a team. They improved each game, and they never laid down and died following a tough loss. As a first-time head coach, he was thrown into one of the toughest situations imaginable. Honestly, it would be difficult for a veteran coach to handle a situation such as the one Luke faced, but he did it like a champion.
He inspired a team with no tangible, end-of-season goal, to play as if a championship was on the line–week in and week out–regardless of whether they won or lost.
Matt Luke has an excellent reputation with high school and junior college coaches in the state of Mississippi. He knows the importance of recruiting in-state athletes.
“It always starts with your home state. I think, because of the Ole Miss brand being stronger than ever, we can go into a lot of places we couldn’t go in before. But it all does start with Mississippi.“
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke
Because of Coach Luke’s ties to the university, its football program, and the state of Mississippi, he should do quite well in the fertile recruiting ground of Mississippi. He’s eager to hit the ground and tell kids about his love for Ole Miss and why they should come play for him.
“I’m from here. I’ve got a lot of ties here. I’m looking forward to getting out and recruiting the state.”
A history of dedication to Ole Miss
One can see Matt Luke’s passion for Ole Miss in everything he says and does. The Gulfport, MS native is a part of three generations of ties to Ole Miss football, as he played center for the Rebels from 1995-1998, while both his brother, his father, and his nephew played for Ole Miss.
Luke, himself, turned down scholarship offers in order to walk on at Ole Miss and became a team captain for the Rebels. He was later hired as an assistant coach at Ole Miss from 2002-2005, though he had many other job offers.
Coach Luke has 23 years of experience in college football as a coach and a player and has worked alongside coaches such as Phillip Fulmer, David Cutcliffe, and Tommy Tuberville, to name a few. He returned to Oxford in 2012 as an offensive line coach where he’s had much success, helping the Rebels to four bowl games since his return–including a Sugar Bowl win in the 2015 season.
In 2015, Luke’s offensive line helped set school records in scoring (531), touchdowns (68), total offense (6,731), passing yards (4,351) and passing touchdowns (35). The Rebels also led the SEC and were top-10 nationally in scoring (40.8), total offense (517.8 ypg) and passing (334.7 ypg).
On top of his many years of experience in college football, Luke has experience with this Rebels team. With looming NCAA sanctions and the loss of their coach, the team could have easily fallen into disarray, if not led by the right coach. Their never-say-die, never-quit mentality is due to Matt Luke’s leadership.
There is no question the Ole Miss players love Luke.
— Breeland Speaks (@Bspeaks9) November 24, 2017
— Waverly McCarthy (@waverlymccarthy) November 24, 2017
— Javon Patterson (@JPatterson__8) November 27, 2017
— Sean Rawlings (@RAWL50) November 27, 2017
Former Rebels love Luke.
Coach Luke !!!!!!
— Donte Moncrief (@drm_12) November 27, 2017
— Quincy Adeboyejo (@QuincyA18) November 27, 2017
— Bo Wallace (@bowallace14) November 27, 2017
Coach Luke is as passionate as any coach in college football. If anyone can hold this program together and lead it through the tough times, it’s Matt Luke.
Simply put, Luke is passionate about his job, his school, and his players. As Coach Luke, himself, said: “This is not a stepping stone for me. This is a destination job. I’ll be here until they run me out.”
I see Mississippi State getting rid of cowbells before Matt Luke would ever voluntarily leave Ole Miss. Commitment like that is hard to find these days.
As Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Athletics, Ross Bjork, said in Monday’s press conference: “We got the right guy.”
Now, all that’s left to do for Luke is win games.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)