Luke Fickell has decided not to accept the head coaching job at Michigan State and will remain in Cincinnati, at least through the 2020 season (hopefully longer). This whole process has been further evidence that the current college football system sucks and needs a total revamp.
Cincinnati fans have dealt with losing coaches before. In 2006, Mark Dantonio went to Michigan State. In 2009, after a 12-0 regular season, Brian Kelly went to Notre Dame. In 2012, Butch Jones went to Tennessee. Do you know why this has happened 3 times, and will probably happen a 4th time sooner than later? It’s because this system sucks.
I don’t blame Luke Fickell for pursuing other options. He owes it to himself and to his family to find the best opportunity and the best path forward in his life. He’s worked way too hard to get to this point in his career, and he’d be doing himself a disservice by not exploring other jobs. Fans can judge and criticize all they want, but at the end of the day, I respect him for doing what’s best for him. I don’t blame him and I don’t blame Michigan State. Fickell was clearly a perfect fit for the Spartans and would have been a homerun hire to add some juice to the program.
No, instead I blame the NCAA. I blame the current college football system.
“This system” that I refer to is the one that gives Cincinnati a 0.0% chance to win the National Championship every season. We saw UCF go unbeaten two years in a row between 2017-2018 and never even came close to being considered for the 4 team playoff. If they couldn’t get close, especially on the second year, it’s going to be difficult for Cincinnati to break through. If you can’t compete for a championship, it’s going to be hard to keep coaches.
It’s also going to be hard to compete from a budget standpoint. Power 5 conferences have the serious luxury of TV money and bowl revenue, something the smaller conferences, including the AAC do not have. It makes sense that schools like Ohio State, Penn State and even Michigan State make significantly more money than Cincinnati. But does it really make sense that RUTGERS, KANSAS, VANDERBILT, BOSTON COLLEGE make a significant amount more money? I don’t think so. Those schools benefit from being in a conference with teams like Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Clemson. They don’t help themselves or carry their own weight. Not like Cincinnati, who over the past decade is far superior than any of those teams in football.
Here’s a great example of why this system is broken. Over the last couple of months, 22 high schoolers have signed a letter of intent to Cincinnati. Those 22 kids, comprise of the highest ranked recruiting class in Cincinnati history. That’s awesome. So, 22 kids who committed to 4-5 years of Bearcats football. But what about the coaches who recruited them? Nothing is forcing Fickell to be there, certainly not his contract. He could have left this week, leaving behind the kids who came here, in part, for him.
What is that? So the coach can force kids to play for him, but isn’t force to coach them? Nonsense.
Thankfully for Cincinnati and it’s fans and players, they have temporarily overcome this weak system and are able to hang onto Luke Fickell for another year. But how long after that? Without a path to a championship, without budget, without better OOC games, bowl games, what’s keeping Fickell here beyond 2020? Yes, loyalty and family are huge to him, as evidenced by his decision to spurn Michigan State. But that only lasts so long when so many people are coming for you and throwing everything they have to lure you.
Cincinnati fans should enjoy Luke Fickell in 2020 and possibly beyond. But it won’t last forever. And the day he leaves, it won’t be his fault. It will be the fault of the NCAA and this broken system.