OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss Athletic Director Keith Carter held a news conference on Monday to explain Sunday’s decision to dismiss Matt Luke as the university’s head football coach.
There were several factors that went into making the decision, but the lack of support was something they couldn’t get back from fans.
“The apathy surrounding the program was too much to overcome. We felt it important to find new leadership that could take this team to the next level,” Carter said. “While you can see progress in certain areas we are not experiencing enough success on the field. From a recruiting, academic and overall culture standpoint Matt did a tremendous job and we will always be grateful for his leadership.”
It was fan apathy that forced Ole Miss administration to make this change. Attendance was the lowest it had been in over a decade.
The Rebels averaged 48,128 fans per home game this season, down a whopping 14% from 2018, and attendance numbers had fallen every year since 2015. And yet, Ole Miss leadership believes the job will draw in a long list of quality candidates.
“People are interested. They’re interested in our job. I think it’s very attractive. We have a great roster of young men that are coming back next year, a lot to build on.”
Carter, who was only named full-time athletic director last month, says he will lead the hiring process almost entirely by himself.
Carter wouldn’t put a timeline on when he expected to have a new coach, but said it would happen as quickly as possible.
He also noted that he would prefer a sitting coach.
Numerous sources with Ole Miss football say that a handful of players stormed out when Carter broke the news, and that a large portion of the roster is thinking about transferring.
When asked what Luke could have done differently, multiple players said that, considering the scholarship and recruiting restrictions Luke inherited from former head coach Hugh Freeze, Luke did the best job he could.
Luke, a former Ole Miss offensive lineman, was elevated to interim head coach about two weeks before preseason practice started in 2017 when Mississippi fired Hugh Freeze.
Luke guided the Rebels, who were already banned from the postseason by the NCAA, to a 6-6 season that helped him land a four-year deal through 2021. With the program facing another bowl ban in 2018 and other NCAA sanctions, Luke and the Rebels went 5-7.
Ole Miss finished this season 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the SEC, including a 21-20 loss on Thanksgiving night to Mississippi State.
Defensive coordinator Mike McIntyre will act as interim head coach until a new hire is made.