The Ole Miss Rebels announced Sunday they removed the interim tag from head football coach Matt Luke and named him the permanent replacement for Hugh Freeze.
Ole Miss went 6-6 in 2017 and finished the regular season with a 31-28 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night.
According to the Clarion Ledger's Antonio Morales, Ole Miss used Turnkey Search to help identify a head coach. The firm worked with the LSU Tigers last year when they decided to make Ed Orgeron the full-time head coach after he filled in for Les Miles on an interim basis.
Following the Rebels' victory over Mississippi State, leading receiver A.J. Brown indicated the players were hoping Luke would return in his current role.
"A lot of the players want to see Coach Luke," Brown said, per Morales. "We would be really upset if he's not. We love that guy. We want him to be our head coach. Period."
Luke did well in a difficult position. Freeze resigned in July after he used a school-issued phone to call a female escort service, which left Luke with little time to prepare for his first opportunity to be a head coach. He and the team also had to deal with the specter of an ongoing NCAA investigation.
Still, the decision to make Luke the permanent head coach is unquestionably risky. For one, Luke is still relatively inexperienced to coach a school in a Power Five conference.
In addition, the narrative of Luke's performance and Ole Miss' season as a whole likely would have been different had Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald not gotten injured in the first quarter of the Egg Bowl. The Bulldogs outgained the Rebels 501-355, so a healthy Fitzgerald might have led Mississippi State to a win.
Ultimately, Ole Miss may struggle to attract proven head coaches until the NCAA wraps up its investigation and announces any possible penalties against the team.