Ole Miss football fans have always been a tough sell when it comes to new head coaches but we really need to be willing to give Matt Luke a fair chance.
For those of you who remember the late sixties, the Beatles were popular and rolled out hit after hit. In 1969, John Lennon wrote and performed his first single with Yoko Ono called “Give Peace a Chance.” I remember the video like it was yesterday, and that was before the MTV era. You might ask, what do the Beatles and John Lennon have to do with Matt Luke and Ole Miss Football? Well, the theme of this article for me and I hope most of you is “All we are saying is Give Luke a Chance!”
Matt Luke hasn’t coached his first game as “permanent” head coach and some so-called experts are already writing him off. We all hear the excuses like “He’s never been an offensive coordinator” or “he’s an interim not a head coach” or “With the probation, he doesn’t have a chance.” As goes the title of John Lennon’s hit, I’m in the camp of not only giving Matt Luke a chance but I support him one hundred percent. For you naysayers, if you’ll step back and look at the situation he inherited, he’s already doing amazing things.
Luke Has Been Good So Far
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First, with unknown penalties of NCAA probation looming, Matt Luke pulled a rabbit, I mean Landshark out of his hat with a 2018 top twenty-five recruiting class. Then amazingly during the NCAA investigation Luke pulled off a 6-6 season with the Egg Bowl victory and showed obvious improvement as the season went on. He kept the Rebel ship afloat and kept most the team together when any of the current players could have bolted. Most didn’t and the ones that stayed are the ones we want, anyway.
The current recruiting class for 2019 is ranked 14th and will climb higher with a good season. Let’s address Matt’s coaching experience. First, he’s been in coaching for twenty years and most at Ole Miss. Second, he’s learned under Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee and David Cutcliffe, both with unique strengths. Matt Luke even learned from Ed Orgeron in recruiting. Ed may not be the best coach around, but nobody will dispute the guy can recruit. Ask Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Feldman (Author of Meat Market).
But, What About His Resume?
Let’s address the issue of Matt Luke having never been a coordinator or a head coach until now. That is true, but let’s take a trip down memory lane. In 2008, Dabo Sweeney was a little known assistant coach at Clemson University. He was the Associate Head Coach and wide receivers coach. Sweeney had never been a head coach at any level. Does this sound familiar? Yep, Matt Luke has similar credentials but with more experience.
In 2008, Clemson was coached by who they thought would bring them back to the Danny Ford ways of winning, in Tommy Bowden, son of Bobby. It didn’t pan out like the Tiger faithful had hoped. Tommy Bowden was fired during the 2008 season and little known Dabo Sweeney took over and kept the ship afloat with a 7-6 record. After the season ended, Clemson fans were waiting on the big name to come in and save the program.
Clemson has the tradition and support so there’s no doubt that they could attract many big names to take over. What did Clemson do? They named interim Head Coach Sweeney as the permanent Head Coach at Clemson. Clemson fans couldn’t believe it and took to internet message boards to voice their displeasure and dismay of hiring an assistant coach. Again, does this sound familiar? It should because Sweeney and Matt Luke have taken almost the same exact path.
Now Look At Sweeney!
Fast forward to present day and Sweeney is one of the top five coaches in college football who has coached in and won at least one national championship. But he hadn’t been a coordinator or head coach anywhere. How could he do this? Clemson saw in Dabo Sweeney what Ole Miss sees in Matt Luke. They are both quality people, passionate about what they do and their players love them. In July, I was in Oxford for a fraternity reunion. You know, when old men get together and still act like college idiots. One of the activities was that we got a guided tour of the IPF and other athletic facilities at Ole Miss.
Most of the players were on campus and getting ready for the fall camp. We ran into several players and got to visit with a few of them. When I asked them about playing for Matt Luke they all said pretty much the same thing. “We love Coach Luke and he is a player’s coach.” I even asked how he compared to Hugh Freeze. While they liked Coach Freeze they said “Coach Luke is one of us. He played here and he is with us.” Remember Hugh Freeze didn’t even play college football and he had some great success in 2014 and 2015.
The message is clear to me. These players will go to war with Matt Luke. They are a band of brothers and when they are under attack in the fox hole, Matt Luke is in there with them. This makes a huge difference in how a team will respond during adversity. The parallels between Sweeney and Luke are amazing. What if Clemson had not hired Dabo Sweeney and went for the “big name.” Would Clemson be where they are today? I say absolutely not!
Luke Will Give Everything
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Nobody, I mean nobody loves Ole Miss more than Matt Luke does. Period! End of story. He will give his blood, sweat and tears to this University. Matt Luke is a ball coach. That’s who he is. He doesn’t need NASCAR drivers or country music stars in the dressing room. He just wants to coach and win. We as Ole Miss Fans and alumni should give Matt Luke the chance and I’ll say this, the time to live out his dream as the Head Coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. He took on a very tough situation and so far, he’s navigated the waters pretty well. We will have some bumps along the way.
There’s no doubt the probation will have an impact. For those of you who are complaining about the lack of five-star recruits, let me just say that you are dealing with huge egos and in some cases they are put out to bid. Don’t kid yourself, big time recruits come with a premium. There I said it and I stand by it. So, as John Lennon and Yoko Lennon sang their song so well, it’s time for the Rebel Nation to sing loudly and proudly “All We Are Saying, Is Give Luke a Chance!”