Wisconsin hires Luke Fickel: The Badgers sign finalization of the agreement with the Cincinnati coach on Sunday

Wisconsin You are expected to be employed CincinnatiLuke Fickel as the next head football coach, sources close to the situation told CBS Sports Dennis Dodd. The amazing development comes after the Bearcats and Fickell finished the regular season with a loss Tulane On Friday while the Badgers finished the season 6-6 with a 23-16 loss at home to Minnesota on Saturday.

The Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET in Wisconsin. On the agenda is a discussion of the salary of the future football coach. An announcement is expected to follow. Special teams coordinator Kerry Combs has been named interim head coach. According to The Athletic.

Wisconsin fired Paul Crist in early October, ending a period that saw the former Badger player and assistant go 67-26 across eight seasons. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonard, another former Wisconsin player, was named the program’s interim coach and was long considered a candidate to be promoted to full-time status at the end of the season. Under Leonard, the Badgers went 4-3 to finish the 2022 season.

Fickell has deep ties to the Big Ten as a former captain Ohio State Longtime player and assistant coach for the Buckeyes, he even served as the team’s interim head coach in the wake of Jim Tressel’s firing in 2011. He continued as Urban Meyer’s defensive coordinator from 2012-16 until he was hired by Cincinnati, promoting the Bearcats into one of the best programs in the AAC. before the school’s transition to the Big 12 in 2023.

After going 4-8 in his first season, Fickell was named the AAC Coach of the Year in 2018 after leading the Bearcats to their third 11-win season in program history. He followed that up with another 11-win season in 2019, adding a division title before back-to-back AAC championships and top-10 finishes in 2020 and 2021. Five schools are grouped to earn an appearance in the College Football Playoff. He would finish 57-18 in six seasons with the Bearcats.

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Long considered a potential candidate for other jobs, Fickell stayed put rather than jump on previous Power Five opportunities.

It’s not the first Big Ten school to come calling

When Mark Dantonio abruptly retired as Michigan State’s head coach in February 2020, the school reportedly interviewed Fickel for the position. However, it is He elected to remain in Cincinnati. This decision, which came before Cincinnati was invited to a Big 12 exhibition, was seen by many as a sign that Fickell would be very picky about the destination if he chose to leave the Bearcats. When Cincinnati got on tap to join the Power Five ranks, and when jobs like Notre Dame and Oklahoma were open and filled without Fickell’s call, the idea that Fickell might stay on for a few jobs had to be considered.

By landing Fickell, Wisconsin was able to attract a coach who had apparently been waiting for the perfect opportunity, which meant the Badgers sold him on the possibility of this program being the place where he could compete for Big Ten championships.

Player development and software building

At Cincinnati, Fickell rebuilt the roster over the recruiting path and helped develop that talent into NFL Draft selections. From 2013-20, Cincinnati has had more than one player selected in the NFL Draft only once (2016). The Bearcats have had four players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft alone and nine players selected the following year, which ranks third among all programs behind only Georgia and LSU. For Wisconsin, the opportunity to bring in someone who can assess and develop talent at that level will allow the Badgers to keep up with the rapidly developing Big Ten scene.

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There is a desperate need to rent a splash for the future Big Ten

Since the Big Ten split into East and West divisions, Wisconsin has enjoyed being one of the perennial powers on one side of the standings with an arguably easier path to a Big Ten championship from the West than teams in the East face with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State all in that division. . But the arrival of USC and UCLA — and whatever schedule and structural changes that come with their additions to the conference — will likely end this favored path to championship contention.

That’s why the state of Wisconsin needed to install the employee at this point in time; The Badgers will have the best chance of staying among the top programs in the conference and avoiding a slide into the league’s middle tier. Wisconsin is a proud program with great traditions, but it also has only six conference championships since 1970 with three won by Barry Alvarez in the 1990s and three won by Brett Bielema in the early 2010s. Paul Chryst has led Wisconsin to three Big Ten Championship games times in the past six years, but that was thanks to the current divisional structure. Wisconsin wants to stay in the mix to play in conference championships on the field, and hopes that Fickel will be the coach to keep them among the elite.

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