Ole Miss Athletics Director Keith Carter addressed the media on Monday after the firing of third-year head football coach Matt Luke.
Luke, who led the team to a disappointing 4-8 season in 2019, was officially fired on Sunday evening, four days after an embarrassing 21-10 loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Luke was 15-21 in his three years as the head coach.
“Entering the Egg Bowl, we were optimistic that a strong finish to the season could build momentum,” Carter said. “However, after stepping away from the emotion of Thursday and evaluating the team as a whole, it was evident that the apathy surrounding the program was too much to overcome.”
The decision was met with approval from the fan base and criticism from a majority of the players, with some storming out of the team meeting with Carter on Sunday night. Carter said several players texted him personally apologizing for leaving the meeting early.
“Let me say this, I’m not mad or angry with those players,” Carter said. “It was an emotional day yesterday. They loved coach Luke. We all love coach and I totally understand the emotions.”
Carter said the decision was made internally after looking at the overall trajectory of the program, and that while there are financial limitations to work through, he’s confident about the decision.
“There was a lot of of noise, kind of, yesterday that there was a booster group that had said they would pay the buyout,” Carter said. “I hadn’t spoken to a single booster about a buyout. Not to say that I won’t talk to them about helping us with a new coach, but we will handle that internally and we’ll work with our department CFO and our foundation CFO to make that happen.”
With the head football coaching job vacant, the search for a replacement will begin immediately for Carter and the athletics department. Ole Miss will use Ventura Partners, the same firm involved in the hiring of basketball coach Kermit Davis, to assist with the search.
“What I’ve learned is people are interested, they’re interested in our job and, you know, I think it’s very attractive,” Carter said. “Like I said, we have a great roster of young men. They’re coming back next year, a lot to build on. And I think a new coach would look at this as a very attractive situation.
“I’ll probably have some advisors, some people that will help me along the way, but ultimately even sitting down with candidates, it’ll just be me.”
Luke’s firing comes just 18 days before the early signing period for 2020 recruits begins on Dec. 18. Ole Miss’ recruiting class was ranked No. 23 in the country, but the change could affect the stance of some committed prospects.
“We want to move as quickly as possible. You know, this new signing day, it complicates things a lot when you’re making a change like this, but certainly we want to move quickly,” Carter said. “I don’t want to put a time frame on it, but quickly and efficiently, as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
Defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre will serve as the interim until a new head coach is named. In the meantime, Carter said he’s instructed the assistants to continue with their regular recruiting trips. The team will still host several official recruiting visits this week while the search officially commences.
“Ultimately you’ve got to sit down with people, you’ve got to look them in the eye and you’ve got to talk about a shared vision,” Carter said. “You’ve got to talk about them wanting to be at our place, wanting to build our program, wanting to be at Ole Miss.”