OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi athletic director Keith Carter wants to find a football coach who can bring new energy to the program and excite a fan base that has grown apathetic.
Carter is seeking a replacement for Matt Luke, who was fired Sunday after going 15-21 in three seasons. Luke posted a 6-18 record in Southeastern Conference competition.
"We've got to find a head coach who can walk into a room, and absolutely take over that room and galvanize people, bring them back," Carter said. "I think people want to support, they want to come back, they want to come to Mississippi football games, but we just lost some of that luster.
"I think bringing someone in who has energy, who can walk in and kind of own a room and be charismatic and make sure they're talking about the future and vision of Ole Miss football, I think we can get people back quickly."
Carter cited a lack of fan support and declining ticket sales as a reason for the change.
Luke began his tenure as Mississippi's interim head coach after Hugh Freeze resigned in the summer of 2017. After Mississippi went 6-6 in 2017, Luke got to keep the job.
When Luke was hired by former athletic director Ross Bjork, it was considered a potentially hard sell because Luke had no previous head-coaching experience aside from that season-long interim stint.
"What I just kept coming back to is while we could see some progress in certain areas and we've been competitive on the field in most games this year," Carter said. "It just felt like the apathy around the program and the lack of support were going to be hard to overcome."
Carter is launching this search less than two weeks after having the interim tag removed from his own title. He was named Mississippi's athletic director Nov. 22 after filling the role on an interim basis since May.
During his introductory press conference 10 days ago, Carter said he believed the football program was "headed in a great direction" and added that he was "so excited" about Luke.
Since that news conference, Mississippi lost 21-20 to rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl to finish a 4-8 season. Mississippi missed a potential game-tying, extra-point attempt from 35 yards out in the closing seconds after Elijah Moore received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating a touchdown by hiking his leg like a dog and pretending to urinate on the field.
"We are not seeing enough success on the field," Carter said. "From a recruiting, academic and cultural standpoint, Matt did a tremendous job and I am grateful to him for that. However, as I said, winning is important and we know that we can win at Ole Miss and compete in championships."
Luke was popular with his players. Carter acknowledged about 8-10 players walked out of a Sunday night meeting announcing Luke's dismissal before the meeting had ended.
"I'm not mad or angry at those players," Carter said. "It was an emotional day yesterday. They loved coach Luke. We all love coach Luke. I totally understand the emotions. I remember when I was 18-19-20 years old. Emotions sometimes can get the best of you. We absolutely are going to do everything we can to support those guys."
Carter hinted a search for the next head coach had already begun.