Matt Luke is a very good choice to lead Ole Miss football program; Ross Bjork should have been fired
For many years NASCAR has had what it called its “silly season” (driver changes, team changes, crew changes). Politics can certainly have its silly season at any time. SEC football is not immune from having its own silly season of coaching changes. Former interim Ole Miss coach Matt Luke is the new head of the Rebel football program. That is a good thing and he deserves a shot. Luke played at Ole Miss as did his father and brother. He is a Rebel through and through and deserves the job. There is one report that if Luke got the job, it depended on the Rebels beating rival Mississippi State. If true, it is sad because Luke deserved the job and just one game, even against the Bulldogs, should not have been the determining factor. When Ole Miss AD Russ Bjork announced Luke was his pick, he said he had made a wide search and determined his best choice as a new head football coach was already in Oxford. Who is Bjork kidding? With all its problems with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, Ole Miss was not exactly the sexiest and most attractive football coaching job in the nation. A big problem in Oxford is too many Ole Miss fans are outraged with the NCAA penalties. They are unrepentant and think the Rebels are victims. I don’t see how Bjork should survive as AD. The NCAA mess at Ole Miss took place on his watch. Add in the existing Rebel players that are considering transferring to other schools. The parents of one player told a national reporter that when their son was being recruited, they ask disgraced and former Coach Hugh Freeze how the NCAA investigation could impact the Rebel football program, and thus, their son’s future. They were not told the truth, but even more, the parents also asked Bjork the same question. They got the same bogus answer from Bjork they got from Freeze. Ole Miss is appealing the 2018 bowl ban, but if
Hinds County lawsuit shows at least one, and probably more Rebel boosters are nervous
Without question, some Ole Miss alumni and boosters are nervous about their names being made public in connection with their role in the NCAA allegations of illegal recruiting involving the football program. One booster, “John Doe” filed legal action against the University of Mississippi and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). The suit was filed May 23 in the Hinds County Chancery Court and heard by Judge Denise Owen. “John Doe” sought to enjoin Ole Miss and IHL from publicly divulging his name in connection to allegations made against him regarding his involvement in football recruiting cheating. As the legal action was filed in Hinds County, it was not hard to surmise that “John Doe” is from the Jackson area. On March 22 the WeidieReport filed a Freedom of Information request with the University of Mississippi with a copy to the IHL commissioner. The request was for the names of any alumni/boosters Ole Miss had disassociated from the Rebel athletic programs as the result of the NCAA allegations. After several email exchanges and phone conversations, on May 3 the Assistant General Counsel at Ole Miss sent me a cover letter and copies of four letters that had been sent to alumni/boosters notifying them of the school’s decision to disassociate them from Ole Miss athletic programs. The names of the boosters, (a.k.a alleged cheaters) were redacted. I thought at the time the blacking out of the names in the letters was akin to changing the names to protect the guilty. Steve Robertson, who covers Mississippi State athletics for Scout.com, has been tenacious and like a bulldog, no pun intended, in digging into the NCAA allegations against the Ole Miss football program. When Robertson’s FOI request resulted in him receiving the same redacted booster names, Robertson filed a complaint with the toothless Mississippi Ethics Commission. And I emphasize the word “toothless.” It would have made more sense, but also been more costly, to file action in a chancery court to force Ole Miss to release the names of the
Will Ross Bjork and Hugh Freeze survive? Will Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter be strong enough to handle his AD, coach and the mess in Oxford?
Is there anything that stirs more passion in Mississippi than a heated political discussion or campaign? Of course there is and the easy answer is SEC football, in particular the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. When NCAA allegations were announced against Ole Miss athletics about a year ago, a firestorm of denials, finger-pointing, defiance, charges of persecution by the NCAA, a lot of spin control by Ole Miss and much, much more erupted. The volume increased recently with additional and very serious allegations against Ole Miss football. New Chancellor Jeff Vitter, Athletic Director Ross Bjork and Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze filmed a 20 minute video to discuss the allegations, how Ole Miss would respond and announced a self-imposed bowl ban for 2017 and that the school would forfeit almost $8 million in SEC postseason revenue. While discussing the video with a friend, I made the mistake of calling it a press conference. I was quickly corrected. It was not a press conference and reporters were not invited so no questions by the press took place. The situation at Ole Miss has received widespread national coverage. While the final outcome may not be known for another year, the overwhelming consensus is the Rebels will suffer more severe penalties from the NCAA. It has been argued the NCAA wants to make an example of Ole Miss and that the university’s pre-emptive self-imposed penalties were a self-serving appeasement that won’t satisfy the NCAA. The most interesting speculation is how the investigation will impact Vitter, Bjork