Matt Luke had a steady rise up the coaching ranks but his final step up to head coach was an abrupt one.
In one fell swoop Thursday, Ole Miss announced last Hugh Freeze had resigned from his position while also naming Luke as the interim head coach.
Addressing media for the first time Monday, Luke, who previously held the positions of offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator, said he was surprised by the coaching change but ultimately humbled by the opportunity.
“I can’t believe I have spent 14 years of my life as a player or coach here. I can truly tell y’all today today that this is my dream job. It’s a job I have been preparing my whole life for,” Luke said at the Manning Center podium, wearing a blue blazer, white shirt and red striped tie. “I feel more strongly now than ever that I’m the right man to run this program.”
Several times Luke looked right at the cameras, streaming his press conference live on the internet and ESPN, and spoke “directly” to the Rebel fan base.
“It is time. It's time for Ole Miss and Rebel Nation to move forward together,” Luke said, quoting former Ole Miss legend Chucky Mullins. “I am honored to be the head coach at Ole Miss. It's your university, it's my university, it's our university. I can not wait to walk down that tunnel Sept. 2.”
Luke lightly detailed the events of Thursday. He received a call from Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork around 4 p.m. asking to meet at his office. It was there that Bjork asked if Luke would be willing to lead his program.
“And I said yes,” Luke recalled.
He later elaborated.
“I was surprised but I didn't have long because I was given a job to do so immediately my focus went to moving forward, went to the players and trying to get this team ready to win football games,” he said.
In his first order of business as head coach, Luke announced he plans to hire an offensive line coach so he can focus on his newly appointed head coaching duties. He hopes to have a hire finalized by the end of the week.
Fan, player support
Luke seems to have the support of both his players and many in the fan base. Luke’s former coach at Gulfport, Ronnie Cuevas, as well as Biloxi High coach and Ole Miss alum Bobby Hall praised Luke’s promotion last week.
Following Luke’s press conference, new associate head coach Wesley McGriff as well as quarterback Shea Patterson, offensive linemen Javon Patterson and defensive lineman Breeland Speaks all supported the move while speaking with the media.
“One of our goals as a team this year — and as a coaching staff — is to go out there and give it our all and win as many games as we can so that he’s not a Band-Aid coach,” Shea Patterson said. “There’s nobody better to lead this team, this program than Coach Luke.”
In an interview with reporters after the press conference, Bjork said Luke will make $500,000 over the next five months as the interim coach on top of his yearly $660,000 assistant coach salary.
Ole Miss opens practice Aug. 2. Luke will make his head coaching debut Sept. 2 at home against South Alabama.