Oct 8, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; A general view of a Wisconsin Badgers helmet during a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Contract details emerge for Wisconsin Badgers HC Luke Fickell

Contract details emerge for Wisconsin Badgers HC Luke Fickell

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin Badgers shocked the college football world this past weekend when they hired former Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell to the same position at UW. 

But the question on everyone’s minds is, what did the Badgers have to pay to land one of college football’s best and brightest? 

It was initially reported by Pete Thamel, ESPN’s Senior College Football writer, that the Wisconsin Badgers contract with coach Fickell was a seven-year pact averaging nearly $7.9 million per year. 

Yesterday, during Fickell’s introductory press conference, UW AD Chris McIntosh set the record straight, “It begins at $7.5 million and averages $7.8 million over seven years,” he told reporters.

That’s $54.6 million in total – which tells me the Wisconsin Badgers boosters backed up the brinks truck.

For reference, that would have tied him as the 10th highest-paid head coach in college football last season, according to NBCSports.

Among Big Ten coaches, Fickell is now the fourth highest-paid HC, trailing Ohio States Ryan Day, Michigan States Mel Tucker, and Nebraska’s new hire, Matt Rhule.

With great contract – comes great responsibility

Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell looks on in the third quarter of the NCAA Football game at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated South Florida Bulls 28-24.
South Florida Bulls At Cincinnati Bearcats 573

UW AD Chris McIntosh fired Paul Chryst, a coach that won more than 70% of his games, went 6-1 in bowl games and appeared in several Big Ten Championships during his tenure. He also passed up Jim Leonhard, one of the brightest defensive minds in college football, to hire Luke Fickell.

You don’t make this move, especially with this kind of pay hike relative to PC, without having lofty goals for the program, so he’ll be expected to deliver and get UW back to competing for league titles.

“We’ve got one objective — one goal — play for a championship,” Fickell told reporters. “That is open-ended, but it gives you a lot of flexibility. You have an opportunity in this league; if you are playing for a championship, amazing things can happen. I think you just got to stay focused and know that’s what it comes down to.”

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days for the University of Wisconsin, but one thing is for sure, UW is all-in on its football program, and fans should be excited.


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Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell looks on in the third quarter of the NCAA Football game at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated South Florida Bulls 28-24. South Florida Bulls At Cincinnati Bearcats 573

Wisconsin Football: 3 Reasons hiring Luke Fickell was the right decision

Madison, Wis. – The existential question for the Wisconsin football program has seemingly been, “how do we take the next step?”

Since 2014, UW has accumulated the most wins of any program that hasn’t made the College Football Playoffs, although former head coach Paul Chryst seemingly had the Badgers on the cusp at his peak.

Since then, Wisconsin has become stale, unimaginative, and in many ways, broken. Whatever you want to call it, UW has taken steps backward.

After accumulating four 10+win seasons in five years, the Badgers haven’t won the Big Ten West in three years – a sentence I never thought I would utter given the trajectory UW was on a few seasons ago.

The Answer to Wisconsin’s problems, at least in the mind of UW athletic director Chris McIntosh, was hiring Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell.

Today, Badger Notes lists three reasons hiring coach Fickell was the right move for the Wisconsin football program.

1. He’s a proven commodity

The heart wanted Jim Leonhard as Wisconsin’s next head coach for obvious reasons, but the head understands that hiring Luke Fickell was a no-brainer.

Fickell, the reigning National Coach of the Year, who is only 49 years old, has as good of a resume as you’ll find in college football.

In six seasons with the Bearcats, he compiled a 57-18 overall record, winning two AAC Championships (2020, 2021) with Cincinnati, and became the first Group of Five football coach to lead his program to the College Football Playoffs in 2021.

And if you want to take it a step further, he took a team comprised of two and three-star recruits that he developed to college football’s final four and didn’t look outclassed against Nick Saban and Alabama.

Let’s call a spade a spade; this man was on the short-list for just about every Power 5 job that would come open – the fact that Wisconsin landed him is both a surprise and a blessing.

Nobody knows if these things will work out, but this is a grand-slam hire for UW on paper.

2. Luke Fickell’s core principles align with Wisconsin football

Albeit slightly different from an aesthetic, Luke Fickell’s core principles mirror the University of Wisconsin’s – a sentiment echoed by AD Chris McIntosh.

“My objective is not to change that [Wisconsin’s identity],” Fickell told UW reporters. “My objective is to try and find ways to grow it and enhance it … I wouldn’t expect it to be much of any different or change in those ways of it being the tough, hard-nosed kind of guys that have made this place special.”

Luke Fickell understands games are won and lost in the trenches, values offensive line play is a defensive-minded coach, and has Midwest roots. He already sounds like a “Wisconsin guy” to me.

He’s a program builder who wants the foundation of his team built on recruiting hard-nosed local players and utilizing his strong track record of player development to field a winner. He acknowledged he’s willing to use the transfer portal to fill gaps on the roster, but it’s not a preferred method of roster construction.

So, it’s not like he’s going to reinvent the wheel here, and quite frankly, I’m not sure UW needs that. He can, however, bring an outside voice with a different perspective to a program that needs fresh ideas.

3. Known for player development

Wisconsin has been a recruit-and-develop program for as long as I can remember. And anyone who follows this program closely knows that’s an area they’ve faltered in recently – Jim Leonhard acknowledged as much this season.

Coach Fickell is known for his player development. At Cincinnati, a school I’d argue has less talent at its disposal; he’s had a player selected in the NFL draft every season since becoming the head coach in 2017.

Since 2020, he’s had players like Josiah Deguara, Sauce Gardner, Alec Pierce, Bryan Cook, Desmond Riddler, and Myjai Sanders all selected in the first three rounds.

Last season, the Bearcats had nine players selected in the 2022 NFL draft, which was third behind only LSU and Georgia.

He recruits local talent and gets the most out of them. UW will always be a developmental program at its core, and, in my opinion, the Badgers just picked up one of America’s most recognizable player development coaches. It’s hard not to be excited about that.

Twitter reacts to Wisconsin football hiring Luke Fickell as next HC


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Sep 21, 2019; Madison, WI, USA; A Wisconsin Badgers helmet sits on the sidelines during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Twitter reacts to Wisconsin football hiring Luke Fickell as next HC

Twitter reacts to Wisconsin football hiring Luke Fickell as next HC

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin football program shocked CFB fans across the country on Sunday when they announced the hiring of Luke Fickell, who coached at Cincinnati for the past six seasons, as the next head coach of the Badgers. 

Most fans, myself included, expected that in-house candidate and UW legend Jim Leonhard would take the reigns after Paul Chryst was fired following a disappointing 2-3 start to the season. 

Much to our surprise, Wisconsin AD Chris McIntosh made the splash hiring of the offseason and put his job on the line by going outside of the UW coaching family. Had he picked Leonhard and it didn’t work out, he would have gotten a pass because it seemed like the layup hire. 

However, Fickell is a top 10-15 head coach in the country that plays a different brand of football and represents the direction he wants UW to reflect moving forward. 

Kudos to McIntosh for seeing the process through and making a tough decision. It may not be popular with everyone, but it’s the right move on paper. 

If you’re a Wisconsin Badgers fan, you can be excited about the hiring of Luke Fickell and disappointed in how things panned out for Jim Leonhard. Both can be true. 

How did Wisconsin Badgers Twitter react to Sunday’s shocking news? Here is a look at some of those reactions from fans and former players:

Former Badgers safety

Current Badgers CB Justin Clark

UW Hall-Of-Fame TE Travis Beckum

Former Badgers TE Troy Fumagalli

Wisconsin football legend, Joe Thomas weighs in…


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Oct 8, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; A general view of a Wisconsin Badgers helmet during a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official, Wisconsin football announces its next head coach

It’s official, Wisconsin football announces its next head coach

Madison, Wis. – On Sunday night, the University of Wisconsin football program made it official, Luke Fickell, who coached at Cincinnati for the past six seasons, will be the next head coach of the Badgers. 

“This is a destination job at a program that I have admired from afar for years,” Fickell said. “I am in total alignment with Chris McIntosh’s vision for this program. There is a tremendous foundation here that I can’t wait to build upon.”

The news of Wisconsin’s interest in Fickell was first reported by ESPN’s senior college football writer Pete Thamel Sunday morning and was later confirmed by Tom Oates.

Luke Fickell’s Resume

Fickell, 49 years old, was an assistant at Ohio State for 14 seasons before accepting a head coaching position with the University of Cincinnati.

In six seasons with the Bearcats, he compiled a 57-18 overall record, winning two AAC Championships (2020, 2021) with Cincinnati, and became the first Group of Five football program to claim a College Football Playoff birth in 2021.

He was a three-time AAC Coach of the Year (2018, 2020, 2021) and essentially won every National Coach of the Year award in 2021.

Wisconsin’s Athletic department is all in…

This hiring of Fickell is a clear message from UW AD Chris McIntosh that the expectation is for the Badgers to compete for Big Ten titles and push for an appearance in the college football playoffs. Anything less moving forward will be unacceptable.

In Fickell, Wisconsin football is getting one of the most recognizable program builders/player development coaches in America. Last season, the Bearcats had nine players selected in the 2022 NFL draft, which was third behind only LSU and Georgia.


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell looks on in the third quarter of the NCAA Football game at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated South Florida Bulls 28-24. South Florida Bulls At Cincinnati Bearcats 573

REPORT: Wisconsin football finalizing deal to make Luke Fickell next HC

REPORT: Wisconsin football finalizing deal to make Luke Fickell next HC

Madison, Wis. – In a shocking turn of events, the Wisconsin Badgers have reportedly spurned interim head coach Jim Leonhard, who was widely expected to get the full-time gig and hired Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell as the next head coach at UW.

The news of Wisconsin’s pursuit was first reported by ESPN’s senior college football writer Pete Thamel and later confirmed by Tom Oates.

For those unfamiliar with Fickell’s resume, he played for Ohio State from 1993-96 and later coached there from 2002-16 before accepting a head coaching position with the University of Cincinnati in 2017.

In six seasons with the Bearcats, he compiled a 57-18 overall record, winning two AAC Championships (2020, 2021), taking the program to an NY6 bowl in 2020, and even led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoffs in 2021, becoming the first Group of Five football program to claim a CFP berth.

Fickell, an Ohio native, won the AAC Coach of the Year three times (2018, 2020, 2021) in six seasons and essentially won every single National Coach of the Year award in 2021 for his impressive campaign with the Bearcats – vaulting him to the top of most Power 5 program wishlists.

What this means for Wisconsin football 

First and foremost, hiring Luke Fickell as the next head coach of the Wisconsin football program has certain connotations. This hiring is a clear message from UW AD Chris McIntosh that the expectation is for the Badgers to compete for Big Ten titles and push for an appearance in the college football playoffs. Anything less was going to be unacceptable.

Its been reported that UW reached out earlier this week to gauge his interest in the head coaching job, as they should have, considering he’s one of the top 10-15 coaches in the country. If you can land a proven commodity like Fickell, it’s a no-brainer for the University of Wisconsin.

Player development has fallen off in recent years at UW, something that interim head coach Jim Leonhard noted during the season. In Fickell, UW is getting one of the most recognizable program builders/player development coaches in America. Last season, the Bearcats had nine players selected in the 2022 NFL draft, which was third behind only LSU and Georgia.

The department will give Fickelll more resources than he had at UC to build Wisconsin into what we all know it can become.

My initial thoughts on the hiring of Luke Fickell

My initial reaction to Luke Fickell becoming the next head coach of the Wisconsin football program was, “holy shit, LET’S GO!”

Jim Leonhard would have been a terrific hire for UW; I think we can all agree on that. However, this move is great for UW and goes against the so-called “status quo” of hiring people with ties to the program.

Could a mass exodus of current Wisconsin Badgers players happen? Yes. Is it possible that he brings some of his already established talent and recruits (he has the No. 26 ranked class according to 247Sports) to UW? Also yes.

The program will endure an overhaul in the coming months – I just ask that fans sit back and enjoy the chaos that’s about to ensue. Good, bad, or otherwise, this is happening.

College football has changed significantly in the past couple of seasons, and UW is an elite landing spot – even if we’ve convinced ourselves it’s not. If you don’t change with the times, you get left behind, and that’s something Chris McIntosh wasn’t willing to let happen.

It’s a ballsy move, no doubt. But I like it—a LOT—home run hire.


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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Oct 22, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Jim Leonhard reacts to a call during the fourth quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Football: Jim Leonhard should be the next head coach

Wisconsin Football: Jim Leonhard should be the next head coach

Madison, Wis. – Hey Alexa, play ‘Jimmy Cooks.’ 

It’s fair to say that the season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Wisconsin football program, and that’s putting it mildly. A disappointing 2-3 start led to the surprise firing of long-time head coach Paul Chryst and the promotion of Jim Leonhard to replace him, at least in the interim.

Since the big change, coach Leonhard has given the program renewed hope and led Wisconsin to a 2-1 record, with wins on the road at Northwestern and at home against Purdue. Perhaps more importantly, he’s injected the team with newfound energy and has them playing some of their best ball of the season.

After a whirlwind start to the 2022 campaign, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) were finally able to take a collective sigh of relief during the bye week and refocus for the home stretch.

Interim head coach Jim Leonhard made it clear that he intended to address the team during the bye week, lay out the expectations for the present, and help share his vision for the program moving forward.

“Part of my message last week was we need to know who’s in and who’s out, and make it clear,” Leonhard said. “If you’re a leader, lead. If you want to be a huge part of what we got going on here but you’re not a leader, grab onto somebody going the right direction. If you’re on the fence or out, let me know, please. That’s the fastest way to get things rallied and get things calmed down is knowing who’s on your side.”

Coach Leonhard, for myriad reasons, is the right man for the job. Today, BadgerNotes lays out why now is the right time to remove his interim tag and officially begin the Jim Leonhard era…

Strong ties to the program

MADISON, WISCONSIN – OCTOBER 01: Assistant coach Jim Leonhard of the Wisconsin Badgers calls out instruction to his defense in the second quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Camp Randall Stadium on October 01, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Make no mistake; coach Leonhard is the overwhelming favorite to become the program’s next head coach. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time before Chris McIntosh removes the interim tag. 

Jimmy Leonhard is known as the golden boy at the University of Wisconsin. He played for UW from 2001-04, beginning his career as a walk-on, and finishing as a three-time All-American at safety. Leonhard parlayed that collegiate success into a decade-long NFL career before enjoying a meteoric rise through the college coaching ranks – assuming the role of Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator after just one season as the team’s defensive backs coach.

Leonhard quickly became one of the country’s most accomplished and well-respected coordinators, making him a popular name for nearly every open head coaching vacancy.        

It has long been assumed that Leonhard was the head coach in waiting, and I have a sneaking suspicion that UW felt they were in danger of losing him, sparking the need to make a change and see what they had before making a long-term commitment. 

If you’re Wisconsin AD Chris McIntosh, you only move on from a head coach as successful as Paul Chryst if you know your next move. Thankfully for UW, that man was already in-house. You won’t find another candidate on the open market who understands the culture of the Wisconsin football program that also relates to the players the way he does.

Allows Jim Leonhard to get a jump start on the 2023 season

With the early signing period just around the corner and the coaching staff actively out on the recruiting trail, now seems like the perfect time to remove the interim tag and name Jim Leonhard, the Wisconsin Badgers head coach moving forward.  

Jimmy said it best himself, “traditions don’t die when you adapt.” 

Under Leonhard, Wisconsin will continue pursuing the same type of kids with which the program has found success. However, he’s going to put his own spin on things. If Athletic Director Chris McIntosh wants to put the program in the best position to succeed, it doesn’t make sense to wait much longer. 

For UW to rebound next season, he needs to decide on Leonhard’s future in short order so he can retain the current players, recruit the ones they’ll need, and begin the search for coaches that fit the direction he intends to move the program.

Coach Leonhard has his own vision for the future and deserves every opportunity to begin putting his imprint on the program. That means selling current players on that vision, selling recruits, hiring his own coaching staff, and getting a head start on scouring the transfer portal.

If Wisconsin makes this move in the coming weeks, I’m confident Wisconsin will contend to win the Big Ten West next season.  

Wisconsin Basketball: 3 Bold Predictions for the 2022-23 Season


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Oct 1, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst looks on during the third quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Column: Wisconsin firing Paul Chryst stings, but it was the right decision

Column: Wisconsin firing Paul Chryst stings, but it was the right decision

Madison, Wisc. – Eight and nine-win seasons don’t carry the same weight as they used to at the University of Wisconsin. UW’s high standards are a testament to the stability and success of the football program under Paul Chryst and his predecessors – but all good things, as they say, must come to an end.

Wisconsin’s embarrassing loss against the Illini this past weekend was the collective straw that broke the camels’ back. 

Wisconsin was no longer a program contending to win the Big Ten West and compete for a conference championship – this was a team in conspicuous decline. 

No creativity, no grit, undisciplined, and without passion – that’s what Wisconsin football looked like from the outside looking in. All programs undergo seasons of a cyclical downturn – and Wisconsin is no different. But this time, it felt different, borderline unrecognizable. 

In a quickly evolving college athletics landscape, the Badgers were, in my opinion, on the brink of a much steeper decline than most are willing to admit.

Coach Chryst experienced what can only be described as a fall from grace. In short, the game began to pass him by, leaving the program in flux. 


My Thoughts on Wisconsin’s decision

My guess is Chris McIntosh wanted his guy (presumably Jim Leonhard) to run the program and wanted to strike while the proverbial iron was hot. Fans and media alike were ready for a change, and this was his window to make a move that could ultimately define his legacy as AD.

I give kudos to University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh for acknowledging there was an issue – and making a tough decision for the betterment of the program. 

The firing of Paul Chryst stings, as well as it should, he’s the third-winningest head coach in program history, but ultimately, it was the right decision. 


“The Wisconsin way”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 30: Head coach Paul Chryst of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the sidelines against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium on December 30, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Badgers defeated the Sun Devils 20-13. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

First, I have the utmost love and respect for Paul Chryst. He was the right man for the job when UW hired him, and I’ll remember his tenure fondly. 

Coach Dad is on the short list of best coaches in the program’s history – that’s not even up for debate.  

Paul Chryst’s Resume

. Coaching Record: (67-26, 43-18 Big Ten) 

. Won three Big Ten West titles (2016, 2017, 2019)

. 2x Big Ten Coach of the Year (2016, 2017)

. 4 – 10+ win seasons (tied for most at UW)

. Bowl games: 6-1 record (.857%) – two NY6 bowl victories.

People forget Chryst was hired at UW to bring back stability after the Gary Anderson debacle and, in my opinion, exceeded expectations. 

During his tenure, the Badgers maintained their familiar identity as a team that won by running the ball, controlling the clock, and playing sound, disciplined football – the Wisconsin way, if you will. 

Despite Wisconsin’s pronounced disadvantages against elite programs on the recruiting trail, coach Chryst and his staff essentially put a fence around the state and continually found players they could bring in and develop. I’d argue they did more with less than any other Power 5 program in the country. 

Sustained success is what Paul Chryst was hired to help protect, and he did precisely that, representing the University of Wisconsin with the utmost class. 

As a wise man, Alex Fletcher once said, I will always appreciate what coach Chryst did for the Badgers, but it was time for a change. Both can be true. 


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers Football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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