FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Luke Fickell struggled his first year at Cincinnati, but he has had nothing but success since that time.
Fickell, age 46, is in his third season with the Bearcats. He was 4-8 in 2017, but then 11-2 in 2018 including a 35-31 victory over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. They finished No. 23 in the Coaches Poll and 24 with the AP.
This season, the Bearcats are 9-1. They lost to Ohio State 42-0 in the second week of the season. They opened 2019 with a 24-14 victory over UCLA. They also own a 27-24 victory over UCF.
Cincinnati hosts Temple on Saturday then closes out the regular season with a huge game at Memphis on Friday, Nov. 29. The ESPN Power Football Index gives the Bearcats an 86.6 percent chance of beating Temple, but only 42.9 winning at Memphis.
Fickell’s first job as head coach was at Ohio State in 2011. It was a strange season in that he opened the year as the interim head coach while Jim Tressel was due to serve a five-game suspension. But then Tressel resigned and Fickell was given a two-year contract to become head coach. However a 6-7 season that included a 24-17 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl caused the Buckeyes to change paths. They opted to hire Urban Meyer as head coach and Fickell returned to co-defensive coordinator and coaching the linebackers.
Fickell played at Ohio State from 1993-96 and then spent 1997 in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. He was a nose guard. He signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent, but then tore his ACL and spent the season in injured reserve list and then was released.
Except for two years at Akron coaching the defensive line in 2000-01 and the three years with the Bearcats all of Fickell’s coaching time has been with the Buckeyes in various capacities.
If Michigan State has an opening he’s expected to be one of the leading candidates for that job. Mark Dantonio has the Spartans at 4-6 this season after struggling to 7-6 in 2018. The fans are growing restless.
Would Arkansas and Fickell be a fit since he has no ties to this area? Only time will tell if Hunter Yurachek opts to explore that option and if Fickell is interested.