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Wisconsin Football: The Benefits of Hiring Luke Fickell as Head Coach



After the surprising dismissal of Paul Chryst on October 2nd, Wisconsin football immediately elevated Jim Leonhard, their long-time defensive coordinator, into the interim head coaching role.

Even getting the Badgers bowl eligible wasn’t enough to have Wisconsin remove his interim tag, as the university instead hired Cincinnati’s head coach, Luke Fickell.

There was some hope that he might keep Leonhard on the staff, similar to Urban Meyer keeping Fickell on when he was the interim head coach at Ohio State. Those hopes ended when Leonhard officially announced that after Wisconsin’s bowl game against Oklahoma State on December 28th, he is formally cutting ties with his beloved alma mater.

What does Luke Fickell bring to the Wisconsin football program?

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

Proven Track Record 

Luke Fickell can flat-out coach. Think of Urban Meyer without all of the scandals. Fickell has been successful since he left Ohio State’s program to become Cincinnati’s head coach following Brian Kelly’s exit.

After a dismal 4-8 record in his inaugural season, he posted back-to-back double-digit win seasons and became the first non-Power 5 program to reach the College Football Playoffs in 2021.

In six seasons at Cincinnati, he produced a 57-18 record and a .760 winning percentage. One of his Cincinnati squads even beat Notre Dame on the road in South Bend.

Familiarity with the Big Ten

Luke Fickell knows the Big Ten landscape as well as any coach in the conference, having both coached and played at Ohio State. While at Ohio State as defensive coordinator, OSU’s recruiting classes were never below 7th in the country. While Wisconsin has been successful on the field, that has yet to consistently translate into recruiting wins. However, they did finish with the No. 16 ranked class in 2021.

Fickell should be able to add a new and exciting energy to the Wisconsin football program.

New offensive concepts 

During Paul Chryst’s tenure, Wisconsin football reverted back to its “smash-mouth” brand of ground-and-pound offense. His squads NEVER averaged more than 200 passing yards in a season, and only once did the aerial attack earn more pass yards per game than the run game.

Fickell’s offenses averaged 225 passing yards per game in six seasons at Cincinnati. Adding Phil Longo as the offensive coordinator should only help enhance Fickell’s proven offensive philosophy.

One potential area of concern

The biggest drawback that comes with Fickell is the potentially uncertain future. The more successful he is at Wisconsin, the more attention he’ll garner from programs that could offer more money.

Jim Leonhard turned down multiple offers from different programs and even the Green Bay Packers to stay at Wisconsin as their defensive coordinator.

Will Fickell use Wisconsin football as a stepping stone in the same fashion Nick Saban used Michigan State to land a job at LSU? Everyone still remembers Bret Bielema leaving our beloved Badger program to coach unsuccessfully at Arkansas.

Final Thoughts

While one era of Wisconsin football officially ended on Dec. 28th, a brand new epoch will begin under the watchful eye of Luke Fickell. While it may not be a very long ride, it should be an exciting aerial journey.