Good news? Since the start of 2018, Bearcats football has won 17 of 20 games
Bad news? When you are a “smaller school” in college football and have that type of success, it usually means your coach is highly sought after.
And that’s what is happening with Cincinnati and coach Luke Fickell. It’s that time of the year, where the head coaching rumors heat up and it’s year 3 at Cincinnati. Three of the last four coaches, moved on to high profile jobs after year 3 - Mark Dantonio after 2006 to Michigan State, Brian Kelly after 2009 to Notre Dame, and Butch Jones after 2012 to Tennessee.
So, it’s year three for Fickell. Is that a reason to be concerned? The simplest answer is no.
Here are three reasons why fans should not be concerned.
1. Family Man
Here’s the simplest reason and it’s the one that the media will ignore and fans of opposing schools won’t care about. Luke Fickell is married and he and his wife have 6 kids. SIX! That’s a lot. That means all 6 kids would need to go to a new school. Make new friends. Live in a new house in a new part of the world. Maybe Luke Fickell doesn’t want to put his family through that?
Remember, this is a guy who went to high school in Columbus. Played for Ohio State and coached there after college. He spent all but two years post graduation, coaching the Buckeyes and those two years were spent at Akron. He’s an Ohio man. It’s not that easy to just get up and go. He has built roots in Cincinnati, including a top 50 recruiting class for the Bearcats in 2020.
2. No great options
The media has pegged Fickell as one of the top options for head coaching openings. But please, enlighten me as to what the top jobs are going to be? Remember this, Fickell turned down Louisville and West Virginia after the 2018 season. That means, it’s hard to see him looking at “power 5” jobs like Boston College or Illinois.
Among the top jobs that may open include USC, Florida State, Michigan State.
Outside of playing UCLA last year and coaching in the Rose Bowl in 2009, it’s fair to wonder if Fickell has ever even been to the state of California. He would be a horrible cultural fit at USC, and quite honestly, this school has been a disaster for a long time. As noted above, family matters to Fickell. Is he really going to move them across the country for an unstable situation? Doubtful.
At Florida State, Willie Taggart has been awful. It’s only been two years, but the Seminoles may kick him to the curb. The Seminoles are a total mess and the fanbase is completely checked out. Fickell is a football coach, not a salesman. He’s not the guy to re-engage the FSU fans and reinvigorate and rebuild the program.
Michigan State is the one that attracts the most attention and the most chatter. Cincinnati is only a few spots behind Michigan State in the latest 2020 recruiting rankings. Fickell is getting commitments from Michigan State targets. He doesn’t really need to move up to get better players. Plus, there’s one big issue for Fickell at Michigan State - does he really want to face his alma mater, Ohio State, ever year? He noted how uncomfortable he was with it week 2 of this season. To do it every year, at a rival school, would be 10 times more uncomfortable for him.
Speaking of Ohio State...
3. He is Ohio State bound
This may sound crazy, given that the Buckeyes are the best team in the country, but Luke Fickell, in my opinion, will be the coach of Ohio State within the next 5-10 years.
Ryan Day has zero ties to the state of Ohio or Ohio State University. He is from New Hampshire and went to college there. That means there is nothing emotionally keeping him at OSU. And if the Buckeyes win a National Championship in the next couple of years? There’s no doubt he’ll look forward to the next challenge and there is no way that challenge is in college. Day will be NFL bound. He already has received previous NFL inquiries as an assistant, so he has been on team’s radars. He could be the next great college-to-NFL head coach. This obviously won’t happen after 2019 but I believe Fickell will hold out as long as he can and take his dream job. Which means, he will buy his time and build Cincinnati into something special, until he can achieve his ultimate goal.
He was with the Buckeyes from 2002-2016. That wasn’t by accident. He had offers and could have left for another assistant job or several head coach jobs over the years. He didn’t. Because he’s an Ohio man. And because he’s very calculated at what he does. And he will be calculated and careful here, with his next career move.