Black Sunday came for coaches across college football, and Matt Luke was unable to avoid it. Ole Miss fired its head football coach after he completed a 4-8 (2-6 SEC) mark in 2019, which concluded with a disappointing 21-20 loss to rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
Luke, who took over as interim coach in 2017 after Hugh Freeze was forced to resign before the season, finishes 15-21 (6-18 SEC) at Ole Miss. The Rebels decided to retain him following a respectable 6-6 (3-5 SEC) campaign in that interim season. However, Ole Miss never finished better than sixth in the SEC West under his leadership, and it did not make a bowl the last two seasons after being ineligible for one in 2017 due to NCAA penalties stemming from Freeze’s tenure.
Even Ole Miss’ victories under Luke came against teams with a combined .379 record. Four of his six SEC wins came against Arkansas and Vanderbilt, and his teams went 1-2 against rival Mississippi State. The Rebels were 5-11 in games against all of their rivals.
“After evaluating the overall trajectory of our football program, we did not see enough momentum on the field and determined a change is necessary in order for our student-athletes to compete at the highest level,” athletic director Keith Carter said in a statement. “While improvements were evident in certain aspects of the program, we are judged ultimately by our record, and, unfortunately, we did not meet the standard of success that we expect from our program. We will always be grateful to Coach Luke for his leadership, particularly from a recruiting, academic and overall culture standpoint. At the same time, winning is important, and we know that we can compete for championships at Ole Miss.”
What isn’t known is whether Luke’s fortunes may have been different had Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving. The Rebels put together a touchdown drive down seven points in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown with 4 seconds left. It was then thatas part of a TD celebration that drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That backed the extra point up 15 yards, and kicker Luke Logan missed the kick. Both the school and Moore released apologies for the incident on Friday.
Luke is the third SEC coach that has been fired this season, joining Arkansas’ Chad Morris and Missouri’s Barry Odom.