Ole Miss seeking charismatic coach to galvanize fan base

Mississippi athletic director Keith Carter listens while discussing the future of the football program during a news conference at the Manning Center, in Oxford, Miss. on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. Mississippi fired football coach Matt Luke on Sunday, three days after his third non-winning season ended with an excruciating rivalry game loss. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle via AP)

A long time ago, someone said it’s not over until a female person of size shares her voice.

Or something like that.

In Mississippi, it’s not over until the Egg cracks.

It’s only then, after the state’s two SEC rivals play in the Egg Bowl, that you can truly plot the future.

Statements of support before the game don’t really mean much because the game can turn in so many ways and change so many things.

Fan interest in Ole Miss coach Matt Luke was only lukewarm before the game.

Newly appointed Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter said Monday he thought a win in the Egg Bowl would help the program build momentum.

I didn’t necessarily agree with that. It’s irrelevant now because the loss – less the loss and more how it ended – created a surge of negative reactions from donors that Carter said was too much for the program to overcome with Luke as coach.

Keith Carter, the chief fund-raiser before being named interim athletics director last May, is uniquely positioned to know what donors are thinking. No doubt he’d already sensed some level of the apathy he talked about Monday on Nov. 22 when he praised the direction of the program under Luke.

Such a complete reversal of position so soon after those comments could reflect poorly on Carter, but it shouldn’t. I suspect at some level they were the thoughts of chancellor Glenn Boyce, too, who much of the season was uncomfortable with the idea of the buyout of Luke and his staff.

Carter did an excellent job Monday of explaining the here and now, of reeling in concerns of players leaving Sunday night’s meeting by promising to meet with and support those players.

He was incredibly honest in discussing the state of the program. What AD stands up there and talks about apathy? Carter did that twice, not brushing over it but emphasizing it.

Carter himself was not the home run hire many wanted in an AD when he was promoted just 13 days ago, but the Egg cracked, and things changed.

Carter no doubt gained the confidence of many by pushing for Luke’s departure.

Now he has a chance to make that home run hire at football coach and put his first major stamp on Ole Miss athletics as its CEO.

Keep in mind this is not Carter’s first big decision. As interim he chose not to extend the contract of long-time baseball coach Mike Bianco, a move that will linger in the background before he has to deal with that at the end of the season.

Carter stressed the need for confidentiality in this football search, and if it’s as small a circle as he described – himself, a search firm executive and perhaps a couple of advisers – he’ll get it. The days ahead will have the speculation that goes along with any coaching search but likely will lack official information.

With or without official news, Ole Miss people are talking and watching.

And when the week is over they could have a good idea of what type of AD Carter will become.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook Group ‘Ole Miss Discussion w/ Parrish Alford.’

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