Barring an unexpected change of events, Matt Luke is expected to return for a fourth season as Ole Miss’s head coach in 2020, sources have told FootballScoop.

Ole Miss is conducting interviews for find its next athletics director — Ross Bjork left for Texas A&M over the summer — and university leadership is stressing to candidates that retaining Luke for the 2020 campaign is in the best interests of the University, sources said. Ole Miss, sources tell FootballScoop, is quite far along in their process to hire their next AD.

Luke, a former Rebels center who coached for his alma mater as a grad assistant, a position coach and co-coordinator, was promoted to interim head coach when Hugh Freeze resigned in the summer of 2017. Luke went 6-6 as a long-term interim — the Rebels were serving a bowl ban as part of NCAA sanctions from the Freeze era — and was retained as the program’s full-time head coach after that season.

Ole Miss went 5-7 in 2018 and today stands at 4-6 overall, 2-4 in SEC play.

In three seasons, Ole Miss is 6-16 in SEC play under Luke — the Rebels close with No. 1 LSU and the Egg Bowl — which, under normal circumstances, would equal a coaching change in the SEC.

However, Luke’s contract would place his buyout around $6.5 million and, when combined with the contracts of offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre, would push the cost of dismissing Luke well north of $12 million. University leadership has told AD candidates that is too much for the university to bear at this time.

When adding that cost to the fraught situation of throwing a newly-hired AD directly into a coaching search, it’s clear why the Ole Miss brass is insisting on giving Luke the 2020 season and letting the new AD get settled in Oxford before undergoing a coaching search next winter, if necessary.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.