Carter Addresses Future of Football Program
Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter met with the media Monday to discuss the dismissal of Matt Luke and the future of Ole Miss football. The full transcript can be found below.
"Good morning. Obviously, this is a hard day. As we announced yesterday, we decided to make a change in our football leadership. With the support and consultation of Chancellor (Glenn) Boyce and after meeting with Coach (Matt) Luke, we felt that we needed to move forward in a different direction and inject new energy in the program. Following Thursday's game, I spent a couple of days taking a hard look at the totality of Matt's tenure as head coach. While you can see progress in certain areas, we are not experiencing enough success on the field. From a recruiting, academic, and overall culture standpoint, Matt did a tremendous job and we will always be grateful for his leadership. However, as I said yesterday, winning is important. We know that we can win at Ole Miss and compete for championships. Another factor was lack of support. Entering the Egg Bowl, we were optimistic that a strong finish to the season could build momentum. However, after stepping away from the emotions of Thursday and evaluating the team as a whole, it was evident that the apathy surrounding the program was too much to overcome. We felt it was important to find new leadership that could take this team to a new level, not only from building on our culture, but also translating to wins on the field. Again, we can't thank Coach Luke enough for stepping into a time when our program was at its lowest point. What he has accomplished here as a student-athlete, assistant coach, and head coach will never be forgotten. We certainly wish him the best moving forward. Our search for a new head coach is underway. We have engaged with Ventura Partners to assist in this process in identifying the strongest candidate and best fit to lead our program. We would prefer a sitting head coach or Power-5 coordinator, but more than anything, we want energy, passion, and a track record of success. We want a program builder who can galvanize and help unite Rebel nation. As was clear with this season, there is a lot of talent on this roster. With those players, and a destination school like Ole Miss, this is a very attractive job and we look forward to working quickly and efficiently to find our new head coach."
On what changed over the last two weeks:
"As we looked in the couple of days since the Egg Bowl, we tried to get away from that (the Egg Bowl) because it was obviously a very emotional night for a lot of reasons. We tried to look at the totality of the program and what I just kept coming back to was while we could see some progress in some areas and had been competitive on the field in most games this year, it just felt that the apathy for the program and the lack of support were going to be hard to overcome. Going in to next year, with the schedule built the way that it is, it just didn't feel like even if we got to five, six, or seven wins, that it was going to be enough to get people back and get over that hump. We felt like making a change now was important so we can interject new life and energy into the program."
On how many players left the meeting last night:
"I think there were probably around, eight, nine, or 10 guys that left. Let me say this, I'm not mad or angry at those players. It was an emotional day yesterday. They love Coach Luke. We all love Coach Luke. I totally understand the emotions and I remember when I was 18, 19, 20 years old, emotions can sometimes get the best of you. But absolutely, we are going to do everything we can to support those guys. I had several of those guys text me after the meeting, apologizing, and saying 'we lost control of our emotion and we shouldn't have walked out'. I appreciated that. I responded to them, and said 'hey, I want to sit down and talk to you'. We want to do everything we can to support our players. I know for them, it is hard to understand why we are doing this. They loved their coach, they love what they are doing, they played extremely hard this year, they've been competitive in so many games. And for them, to have this happen, is hard. It's a hard situation. We want to be there to support. We want to show them ultimately that we are going to bring a coach in that is going to help them get over that hump and help them be successful. But most importantly right now, we want to make sure that emotionally, they are in a good place. I have some follow-up meetings already set with some guys and I will continue to do that."
On the decision makers in this search:
"This will just be me. I will be working with Chad from Ventura (Partners). We are going to work very quickly and try to be efficient. We will obviously try to be confidential. I'll probably have some advisors, some people that will help me along the way, but ultimately when sitting down with candidates, it will just be me."
On the appeal of the Ole Miss head football coach position:
"I think because of a lot of the hard work that Matt (Luke) and his staff have done, the program is in a much better place than it was when he took over, obviously. I said it before that the farther away we get from the NCAA issues that things will continue to get better and better and better. We started looking at some things a couple days ago, and you're always looking as an Athletics Director and watching games to look for talent and those types of things. You're trying to identify people, you may not need them now but you may need them later. So that's something I've really tried to do throughout the season and really the last couple of days just making some calls trying to get a little farther down the line with some potential interest. And what I've learned is people are interested. They're interested in our job and I think it's very attractive like I said. We have a great roster of young men that are coming back next year. A lot to build on and I think a new coach would look at this as a very attractive situation."
On what recruiting and the assistants' futures will look like going forward:
"I didn't mention this before, but Mike MacIntyre will take over and be in charge of the team in the interim period. I spoke with him this morning and he was more than willing to do that. The assistant coaches are on the road right now and what we've told them is to 'Please just go in and continue to do the visits, wear the Ole Miss logo, and continue to spread the Ole Miss message.' The assistants have been great. You know this is a hard time for them as well, obviously. But absolutely as we talk to a new coach, we will encourage the new coach to look at this staff. I think this staff has done a tremendous job in a lot of ways and I think that there are some pieces on this staff that could be very beneficial to a new staff potentially. We know how this works; a new coach will have the autonomy to bring in who he wants to, but certainly we will talk about our assistants and some of the good things that they've done."
On the timetable for the coaching search:
"Like I said, we want to move as quickly as possible. I think with this new Signing Day it complicates things a lot when you're making a change like this. But certainly, we want to move quickly. I don't want to put a timeframe on it, but as quickly and efficiently as we can."
On whether any of the current staff have expressed interest in the vacancy:
"You know right now we're kind of looking at all options. We haven't narrowed our list down to kind of a specific list of four or five names. I haven't specifically spoken to either of them about this job, but anything right now is on the table."
On the financial details of the coaching buyout:
"It is (expensive). I think I made some comments last week though that we'll always make decisions that are in the best interest of our programs. Let's be honest, there are some financial things that we have to work through with Matt's contract. We can pay it out over a four-year period which will help there. All of our assistant coaches' contracts have mitigation clauses in them that if they get other jobs that number comes off the number that we owe them. So, there's some things there that we can work through, but certainly we'll handle that internally. There was a lot of noise yesterday that there was booster group that had said that they'd pay the buyout. I haven't spoken to a single booster about a buyout. Not to say that I won't or not to say that I won't talk to them about helping us with the new coach. We will handle that internally and work with our department (chief financial officer) and foundations CFO to make that happen."
On whether there are any financial limitations moving forward:
"There's always limitations, but we will be very competitive. We will go out and find the best coach that we will need to get and do what we need to do financially to get that coach."
On regaining fan support:
"I talked a little about this last week. We have to be out in front of people. We have to find a head coach that can walk into a room and absolutely take that room over. Galvanize people. Bring them back. I think people want to support, want to come back, want to come to Ole Miss football games, but we just lost some of that luster. I think bringing somebody in that can have energy, and again walk in and own a room, be charismatic and make sure they are talking about the future and the vision of Ole Miss football. I think we can get people back quickly."
On if the Egg Bowl incident had effects on decisions:
"I don't think specifically that incident did. I think it was a totality of everything. I think that as you look at the wins and losses on the field that was one of the main things, and I think the way the game ended on Thursday was a little bit of an exclamation point on some of the apathy that was out there already, and that probably put some people on the other side of it that probably couldn't get back. Certainly, the game and the way it was finished was a factor, but by no means was it the only factor or the main factor."
On the importance of his role in the Kermit Davis search and takeaways:
"Yes, it's very important. I think the thing I learned about that search is being confidential. Confidentiality is very important, and I think Chad and the folks at Ventura (Partners) will help us with that, but ultimately, you've got to sit down with people and look them in the eye and talk about a shared vision. You've got to talk about them wanting to be at our place, wanting to build our program, and wanting to be at Ole Miss. I think with Kermit (Davis), you know he was the last person we interviewed based on timing, we knew within 5-10 minutes that he was different and that's what I'm looking for here. I want to sit down across from somebody and when you see in their eyes what their vision is and how excited they are for our opportunity, all of those things. That is what I want to look for and I think that search is going to be a very valuable resource as I go into this one."
"The assistants will continue to be on the road, I'm actually going to meet with Coach Mac (Mike MacIntyre) and Tyler (Siskey) to talk about some ins and out of recruiting. We have a big weekend coming up that probably going to be changed dramatically, so we're going to talk about that and talk about the best ways to use our official visits. Do we need to save those or use them now? I'll rely on those guys to help. They've been tremendous. Tyler's been tremendous so far, so I'll meet with them at 4 o'clock today and we'll talk about what that looks like moving forward."
On importance of Mississippi ties in the search:
"The goal is to get the best coach, and if that coach has a Mississippi tie, I think that's a positive, but if he doesn't and he's the best coach for our situation, that's who we are going to hire. I think that a lot of times you want to have somebody that understands the region. Somebody that understands the recruiting base, a lot of those things, but sometimes not a direct Mississippi tie. We will go out, search the landscape and hire the best coach."