If I could offer Matt Luke just one piece of advice for his upcoming job interview with Ross Bjork, I would strongly suggest showing up with the Egg Bowl Trophy in his hands. When Bjork gets around to asking about Luke’s qualifications for the position, the coach could reply, “You’re looking at the most recent one.”
Thursday night’s Egg Bowl win was possibly the greatest upset by an Ole Miss team ever in Stark Vegas. Very few people, if any (including this writer), gave the Rebels a chance. Except Matt Luke and his band of Rebel warriors. On a night that Ole Miss would not be denied, the big finale to a turbulent season (on the playing field, at least) could not have been better.
Making the case to retain Matt Luke is an easy one. The case to send him packing is far more complex and treacherous. Let’s play the “what if” game for a second.
What if Ole Miss dismisses Luke and then the NCAA declares that any Rebel player can transfer without sitting out the 2018 season? Talk about gutting a program. With Luke at the helm, the risk of losing important players would be reduced. No one is better prepared to hold this band of Reb players together than Matt Luke. They love playing for their coach, as was clearly evident Thursday night.
The smart move is to bring Luke back for the 2018 season and give him a full year with his staff. The cloud of uncertainty from the NCAA investigation will have lifted—the team will know what it’s facing at last and can move forward from there.
Way back in August, I predicted this team would go 9-3. While they came up three wins short, anyone who follows the Rebels knows how close they actually came to that 9-3 tally. And going 2-2 on the road in the SEC—with the two losses coming to top six nationally ranked teams—was not an easy feat.
While others are making a case for South Carolina’s Will Muschamp for SEC Coach of the Year, I’m no attorney, but I believe I could make a compelling case for bringing Luke back as Ole Miss’ head coach. With the problems he inherited, and the challenge of operating under the Katrina cloud that consumed the 2017 Ole Miss season, Luke did the impossible. Just ask Dan Mullen.
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 985-852-7745.