Ole Miss coach Matt Luke holds his SEC Media Days news conference at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

With sanctions in place, Luke must pick up the pieces at Ole Miss

With perhaps the least fanfare of any coach, a degree of indifference that hardly ever surrounds an SEC program, no less Ole Miss, coach Matt Luke steps to the podium.

“Everybody’s asked me,” Luke said, turning to the reporter who asked the question, “‘Hey, what’s your motivation?’”

Last August, the NCAA issued charges of 21 infractions in the Ole Miss program, including the infamous “lack of institutional control.” The charges included details of recruiting misdeeds, shady boosters, cash payments and more. Ole Miss issued some self-imposed sanctions, including scholarship reductions and a one-year bowl ban. The NCAA upped the ante, extending it a two-year bowl ban and further scholarship reductions.

Embroiled in program-wide turmoil, Luke has the task of picking up the pieces in his first year at the helm. 

It might be the most difficult task a coach can face in college football — summoning motivation without the traditional mechanisms to reach it. There’s no carrot dangling at the end of this season for Luke. Luke and his staff lost six key players, including quarterback Shea Patterson, wide receiver Van Jefferson, and safety Deontay Anderson, after the sanctions were handed down.

A lack of motivation would be forgivable, if not the expectation. Luke says it hasn’t been so.

“I think that’s what everyone was looking for, would they shut it down, and they didn’t,” he said Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “They had a very, very unselfish attitude, and were playing for each other. I think that’s where the motivation comes, is really working and playing for each other, and trying to proving everyone else wrong.”

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