OXFORD • Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter, in his first major personnel move since having his own interim tag removed 11 days ago, on Monday promised a quick and efficient search for the school’s next football coach.
In the end it wasn’t “Pee Gate” or his record on the field that was the undoing for former player and long-time assistant coach Matt Luke.
It wasn’t that people were for or against him, it was worse.
Carter said some Ole Miss fans were becoming indifferent.
That understanding led Carter to make a complete 180 degree turn from the incredibly strong vote of confidence he’d given to Luke when Carter was named permanent AD on Nov. 22.
“Entering the Egg Bowl we were optimistic that a strong finish to the season could build momentum. However, after stepping away from the emotion of Thursday and evaluating the team as a whole, it was evident that the apathy surrounding the program was too much to overcome,” Carter said.
Defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre will serve as the point man for football until a coach is named.
Carter planned to meet with MacIntyre and administrative coach Tyler Siskey to discuss recruiting and this weekend’s schedule of official visits. He expects modifications to the weekend’s visitors list.
Carter said he will employ the search firm Ventura Partners, with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, to assist with the search.
It’s the same firm Ole Miss used when Kermit Davis was hired as basketball coach in 2018.
Carter was very involved in the Davis search and has a previous relationship of working with Ventura’s Chad Chatlos.
Carter said he will target a sitting head coach or a Power Five conference coordinator.
“More than anything we want energy, passion and a track record for success,” he said. “We want a program builder who can help galvanize and unite Rebel Nation,” he said.
Carter stressed the need for confidentiality throughout the search process. He said Chatlos will assist with vetting candidates, and he’ll seek advice from others along the way, but when it’s time for a face to face Carter’s is the only face candidates will see.
“Ultimately when sitting down with candidates it will just be me,” he said.
Luke went 15-21 in three seasons as coach, rushed into the job as interim in late July of 2017 when Hugh Freeze was fired for inappropriate personal relationships.
Luke’s last game was a one-point loss to the Rebels’ chief rival that will be remembered not for a thrilling last-second drive that almost led to an Ole Miss win but for sophomore wide receiver Elijah Moore running to the corner of the north end zone and lifting his leg in mock urination as a Bulldog might do.
After the penalty the Rebels missed a 35-yard extra point and – officially – lost the game.
On Nov. 22 Carter said the football program was “headed in a great direction” and that he was “excited about where recruiting is and excited about where the future is headed.”
However, it wasn’t the Egg Bowl itself or the barrage of negative media coverage following Moore’s actions that pushed Carter to reverse his position.
“The way the game ended on Thursday it was a little bit of an exclamation point on some of the apathy that was out there already. It probably put some people on the other side of that that maybe we couldn’t get back. The way the game finished was a factor, but by no means was it the only factor or the main factor,” Carter said.