Two years ago, Matt Luke landed his dream job as Ole Miss' permanent head coach after an emotional upset of Mississippi State in Starkville. This year, just four days after Ole Miss' rally against the Bulldogs fell short, thanks to an embarrassing penalty and a missed extra point, Luke is surprisingly out as Rebels coach.
A very active Sunday on the college coaching carousel ended with a shocker. Luke was expected back for a third season, despite consecutive losing records. He helped his alma mater through a difficult period of NCAA sanctions following Hugh Freeze's departure. Ole Miss only recently removed the interim tag from athletic director Keith Carter, who gave strong initial support for Luke and the program's future.
The lesson here: Never underestimate the significance of the Egg Bowl. Luke finishes 15-21 in three seasons with the Rebels.
Ole Miss hopes to restore the winning and recruiting success it enjoyed under Hugh Freeze without the looming shadow of potential NCAA violations. It will be interesting to see how coaches and their agents view this job. Freeze, Houston Nutt, David Cutcliffe, Tommy Tuberville and Billy Brewer all recorded at least two seasons of eight or more wins at Ole Miss, but none consistently contended for SEC titles.
Although Luke had great institutional knowledge of Ole Miss, he lacked head-coaching experience and likely would not have been a candidate anywhere else. Ole Miss likely will target sitting head coaches who can recruit the area (both high schools and junior colleges) and compete against programs with greater resources in college football's toughest division. Although Luke brought in two coordinators with Power 5 head-coaching experience this season in Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre, we don't expect Ole Miss to look internally.
Fortunately, the potential candidate pool provides some interesting options. Here's a closer look.