Ole Miss interim coach takes the reins with less than a week before camp

Matt Luke (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Matt Luke (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

OXFORD, MS (WMC) - Fall football camp opens in Oxford in less than a week. That doesn't leave much time to get it together if you're a first-time head football coach - especially if you were not expecting to be a head coach at all.

But, with this week's whirlwind events booting Hugh Freeze out, that's what the man who now wears the big whistle for Ole Miss must face.

Matt Luke will lead the Ole Miss Rebels on an interim basis this fall. He may not be a national name, but people in Oxford are very familiar with him.

Luke has a long-standing family connection with Ole Miss.

He played football for the Rebels and started 33 games at center from 1995-1998.

His brother, Tom, quarterbacked the team from 1989-1991 and their father, Tommy, was a Rebel defensive back in the 1960s.

Luke has been on the Rebels coaching staff for more than a decade. He was a student assistant coach in 1999 and then, after two years at Murray State, he returned to Ole Miss under David Cutcliffe to coach tight ends and the offensive line.

After another couple of stops at Tennessee and Duke, Luke returned to the Rebels when Hugh Freeze took over in 2012. He would have served as the team's co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach this season until Freeze abruptly resigned Thursday.

Luke's high school coach Ronnie Cuevas of Gulfport said he believes his former lineman is the right person to lead the Rebels in difficult circumstances.

"I just think he'll rally the troops and he's a great people person," Cuevas said. "I think he'll rally the players. I think he'll rally the alumni and I think they'll get behind him and he'll do a great job."

As an interim, Luke will coach the Rebels at least through this season. A season already under a ban and limited scholarships, as well as self-imposed sanctions, to hopefully appease NCAA investigators.

While Luke leads the Rebels this season, Ole Miss officials said it gives them plenty of time.

"There will be a lot of time to search for a permanent head coach," Athletic Director Ross Bjork said.

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