Vassallo: Texas A&M Is Matt Luke’s Final Exam

If the Rebels finish 6-6 and Ole Miss doesn't keep Matt Luke, the new coach must be a proven winner.

Matt Luke leads the Rebels onto the field before the UT Martin game in Week 2. Photo by Paul Keelaghan

With the Ole Miss Rebels reaching .500 at 5-5 and arguably the ninth best team in the league, their remaining two-game season has only one possible “W” left: Texas A&M, this Saturday in Oxford.

As much as I want to believe in Santa Claus, he won’t be visiting the Rebels in Starkville this Thanksgiving. By my estimation, Mississippi State should prevail by 30 points or more. With their narrow loss to Bama this past Saturday, the Bulldogs are looking like a 9-3 squad, having lost only to the SEC’s trifecta elite.

While we’re still searching for a new head coach, here’s my viewpoint on this narrative. Placing my Pollyanna hat on for a minute, should the Rebels upset the Aggies (arguably the seventh best team in the league at 6-4), Matt Luke’s case to remain as Reb CEO for the 2018 season would be a strong one. Going 6-6 in the environment that he inherited would be a remarkable accomplishment. And even with a loss to Texas A&M, he should be given complete and extensive vetting.

If, for any reason, Ole Miss decides to go in another direction, here’s my take on it: By passing up Luke, we would then need to hire the best coach available anywhere and not someone who has a record of failure at other institutions, despite the normal excuses that accompany these resumes. This time, that dog will not hunt!

If we hire a new head coach with a modest record of success and he should fail to win in Oxford, the resounding commentary in the Grove would be, “We set Matt Luke free for this?”

In other words, if we are dead set on making a change, this time it has got to be platinum. There is simply too much at stake to do anything else!

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a 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 or call him at 985-852-7745.


  1. “upset” the Aggies? Which line are you looking at? Last time I checked, Ole Miss was favored. It wouldn’t be an upset if Ole Miss won. It would be taking care of business at home, which is what any half-way decent coach would do.

    It’s typical Ole Miss low expectations to even be entertaining the notion of keeping Matt Luke.

  2. If the Rebels win out. I say hire Luke as our head coach. Never say Never. I say Msu goes down in the Egg Bowl. Its common for the team that has nothing to lose to win in this type rivalry game. The Egg Bowl is our Bowl game. Go Rebs. A rebel fan forever. Win or lose.

  3. We should hire Matt Luke, he has done an excellent job given the situation he inherited. We are facing NCAA penalties, maybe severe (maybe not), but we need someone the next few years that has a long connection to Ole Miss. Coach Luke has that connection (family connection) his dad played for Coach Vaught, his brother played for coach Brewer, he played for Coach Tubberville and Coach Cutcliffe. He has held this football team together, in a very difficult situation. Think about the situation, we need to get back to basics at Ole Miss, Coaches who are outsiders usually don’t get much done; however, our greatest coaches have been men who were either on the previous staff (Vaught) or have played here (Brewer). Coach Luke is Ole Miss, lets stick with him in this difficult times!i

  4. If Ole Miss chooses to keep Matt Luke, let’s be sure to compensate him at least at a mid level SEC head coach pay grade. He will be coaching and recruiting at an extreme disadvantage with a daunting task ahead of him for several years. Anyone who thinks the NCAA is not going to penalize us harshly is not in touch with reality. They have not been scratching their heads for almost five years for nothing. It will be ugly for sure. What highly successful head coach elsewhere would want the job at Ole Miss at this point. A 500 season under the most dire of circumstances this season would be a great year. Let’s whip some Aggie butt! Hotty Toddy!