Interim head coach Matt Luke will lead his Rebels into Jordan Hare Stadium on Saturday. Luke was named interim head coach after Hugh Freeze was dismissed as the Ole Miss head coach in July of 2017.
Freeze served as head coach from 2012 to 2016 after a short head coaching stint at Arkansas State, where Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn also coached before his career at Auburn.
Freeze’s coaching career at Ole Miss was plagued with investigations of possible recruiting violations, leading to the university self-imposing a one-year postseason ban for 2017. Most people expected Freeze to eventually lose his job because of his recruiting scandals, but his dismissal was in relation to a series of calls made to an escort service.
Over the summer, the NCAA began investigating phone calls made through university-provided phones as part of a lawsuit that former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt filed against the university. The lawsuit had nothing to do with the possible escort situation, but the calls were discovered in the investigation process.
The investigation showed that Freeze’s university-issued phone had made calls to at least 12 different numbers associated with online escort services. These calls dated back to 2014. Malzahn, who is good friends with Freeze, openly defended him during the investigation. The university fired Freeze on July 20 and immediately named Luke as the interim head coach.
Luke played center at Ole Miss from 1995-1998 and served at Murray State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Duke as an offensive line coach before becoming the Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator in 2012. Prior to his current position as interim head coach, he had never held a position higher than co-offensive coordinator.
Ole Miss began the season with two wins before a loss to California and an embarrassing 63-point loss at the hands of Nick Saban and Alabama.
The Rebels have only scored three points in their last six quarters of football despite having Shea Patterson, who many see as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. Auburn’s scoring defense is currently sixth in the nation with 11.0 points allowed per game. ESPN’s FPI gives the Rebels a 5 percent chance of beating the Tigers on Saturday.
Following their poor offensive performance against Alabama, Luke emphasized a need to simplify the offensive game plan and focus on offensive speed.
Ole Miss is waiting until the end of the 2017 season to begin its search for a permanent head coach, and it will take a dramatic turnaround for Luke to retain the position. Other names being considered are Tennessee head coach Butch jones, who is expected to be fired after this season and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Luke's attempt at turning the season around will begin at 11 a.m. CT when the Rebels take on the Tigers in Jordan Hare stadium.