With a final decision from the NCAA regarding recruiting violations fast approaching, athletics director Ross Bjork announced the hiring of Matt Luke as full-time head coach Sunday night.
As the program prepares to receive its fate, this upgrade from interim coach to head coach will hold the headlines until doomsday arrives. However, Luke’s hiring is an indicator that the school expects the worst and does not have any hope for the near future.
It would be difficult for anyone to recruit for Ole Miss with everything that has transpired. Everyone in the program is aware that it is going to be a long few years. Top recruits are going to want to steer clear of a school riddled with controversy and an air of sleaze over the past year. The only way to counter the negative feelings recruits will have toward Ole Miss would be hiring a huge name to distract from the pending hurdles.
There were several possibilities, even if many were far-fetched ideas. Lane Kiffin, who has demonstrated his head coaching ability by turning around the program at Florida Atlantic, is most likely using his stint at FAU as a stepping stone to a larger program. Ole Miss could have gone that route.
The legendary Les Miles was reportedly “extremely interested” in the job. Even Blake Anderson of Arkansas State would have been a smart move.
Basically, any name big enough or with enough talent to persuade recruits to look past the scandals that defined Ole Miss football in 2017 would have been a good move for the program. Instead, Matt Luke was hired.
There are obviously good things about Luke. His school spirit and passion are undeniable. He has charisma, is clearly a good person and is well-liked by his team. He isn’t even a bad coach. He’s a great coach to have on a team and is a great offensive line coach, but he is not a head coach. Becoming head coach was not a move he was ready for, and the mistakes he made during the season made that quite clear.
Obviously, Luke has an entire season of SEC coaching under his belt now. And experience is important moving forward, but he is not the best man for the job at this exact moment. Many would say that it is important to keep him because the players will feel more inclined to stay because they like him so much, but the truth is that most players are not willing to go through the grand hassle of transferring simply due to a coaching change. Retention is not as difficult as initial recruitment, which is where Matt Luke falls short of being the best option for the future of the Ole Miss Rebels.
A column opposing this can be found here.