The Egg Bowl left Rebel Nation angry but not surprised, considering it had been one of five losses this season that was a scoring drive away from victory. Now that Ole Miss’ losing football season has come to a close, many fans have been calling for the same fate for Matt Luke’s Ole Miss coaching career. Last night, Athletics Director Keith Carter announced the end of Luke’s time as head coach. This is a mistake.
It’s undeniable. Luke has had three sub-par seasons as head coach at Ole Miss. The Rebels have been ranked sixth in the SEC West for all three.
However, in recent history, we have been quick to call for the firing of a coach who fails to produce immediate results. For instance, let’s not forget the time we fired Ed Orgeron after three unsuccessful seasons.
Just two weeks ago, we suffered a loss to LSU, the SEC-leading program, which Orgeron has built since he was fired from the University of Mississippi. We failed to give Orgeron the chance to build his program here, and now we’ve done the same to Luke.
In the heat of the moment Thursday, we forgot that Luke’s career at Ole Miss began during a time of tumult for Ole Miss football. We had just been placed on a probation period. He was offered the head coaching position before the 2018 season after serving as the interim head coach following Hugh Freeze’s firing. The 2019 recruiting class was his first group unaffected by the plague of NCAA probation.
The 2019 losing season has been different from the past two. There was a substantial gap between the efficiency of the defense and the offense during this season’s games. Poorly executed play calls resulting in fumbles and incompletions or interceptions and pick-sixes often were the difference in wins and losses — mistakes Luke would call “the little things” in his post-game press conferences.
The offense was not bad. It was incredibly capable — just highly inexperienced. Much of this year’s offensive success has come from the 2019 recruiting class. This season’s young offense has revealed raw talent that instills hope for the years to come. The ability of the underclassmen offensive playmakers to execute and compete in SEC match-ups is evident, but the mistakes of these playmakers are the most obvious and crucial in a game.
With another year of development and experience, Luke could have proven his capability as a coach. We shouldn’t have dismissed him before he has a chance to produce a second unhindered recruiting class and use the experience from this year’s freshmen to cultivate a winning season.
Ole Miss’ 2020 recruiting class is ranked higher than three of the five close-loss teams we faced this year, and it is projected to be the program’s second Top-25 recruiting class in a row since the probation period. We should have given Luke time to fine-tune this young talent and build this program. Instead, we will face the consequences of sending our young team through a coaching transition.
Lydia Johnsey is a freshman international studies major from Fayetteville, Tennessee.