Wisconsin squandered an opportunity at the end of a 23-16 loss to Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Luke Fickell will be the next University of Wisconsin football coach,
pending approval from the Board of Regents.
That shocking news came Sunday and was confirmed by former UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, who had been told the news earlier in the day by his successor, Chris McIntosh.
“I think it’s a home-run hire,” Alvarez said.
Jim Leonhard seemed like the leading candidate to take over after serving in an interim role for the final seven games of the 2022 regular season, but McIntosh pulled off his second stunner in eight weeks: Firing Paul Chryst was No. 1; pulling off a coup and landing Fickell, one of the hottest names on the market after the job he’s done at Cincinnati, may be even more surprising.
“You know what, I love Jimmy,” Alvarez said. “I think Jimmy would have done a good job. I hate to go there. Jimmy’s done a great job and he’s a great coach. I don’t want to say anything. All I know, I love Jimmy. Jimmy’s done a great job for us, a tremendous job, and I have all the respect in the world for him. I don’t want to go any further. I’m just going to say good things about our new guy.
“There’s a new era and I’m excited for it. Our fans should be excited for it.”
A look back at Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell's career
Luke Fickell, left, was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. He played for St. Francis DeSales High School, where he was a two-time first-team All-Ohio defensive tackle and three-time state champion wrestler.
He enrolled at Ohio State and redshirted the 1992 season. He made 50 consecutive starts at nose guard from 1993-96 and started the 1997 Rose Bowl before graduating.
Fickell went undrafted and signed with the New Orleans Saints. But he tore his ACL and spent the season on injured reserve before being released.
Early coaching years 1999-2001
When Fickell's playing career was over, he began coaching at Ohio State in 1999 as a graduate assistant. After one season he was hired at Akron as defensive line coach for the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Ohio State assistant 2002-10
Jim Tressel, right, brought Fickell on as an assistant coach in 2002. Fickell was special teams coordinator from 2002-03, then linebackers coach in 2004. In 2005, Fickell became co-defensive coordinator along with his linebacker responsibilities. He was named American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010. As an assistant under Tressel, the Buckeyes were 99-17 and won the 2002 BCS national championship.
Ohio State interim coach in 2011
Fickell provided a stop-gap for the Ohio State football program as interim coach in 2011. The Buckeyes went 6-7 in their transition season from Jim Tressel, who resigned, to the hiring of Urban Meyer.
Ohio State assistant 2012-16
Fickell played with and coached alongside Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, left. Vrabel was a defensive line and linebackers coach from 2011-13. When Meyer took over, he retained Fickell as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2012-16 before Fickell left for Cincinnati.
During the five-season stretch as an assistant under Meyer, the Buckeyes were 61-6 and won the College Football Playoff championship in 2014.
Cincinnati hires Fickell in 2017
The University of Cincinnati hired Fickell in 2017 to replace Tommy Tuberville. It was his first full-time head coaching job and it kept him in the state he was born and played collegiately in. Fickell would go on to amass a 57-18 record, including 2-2 in bowl games, and built a championship pedigree. He is the winningest coach in Bearcats football history.
It took Fickell a few years to build the Bearcats into a championship contender and better. Cincinnati reached the AAC championship game in three straight seasons, beginning in 2019 and winning the title in 2020 and 2021.
College Football history
Fickell and the Bearcats made history in 2021. Cincinnati was a perfect 13-0 and became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. The Bearcats lost in the Cotton Bowl to Alabama 27-6 to finish 13-1.
Fickell found and developed talent. A program-record nine Bearcats were selected in the 2022 NFL draft. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner (1) is the highest Bearcat selection after he was selected fourth overall by the New York Jets.
There have been 17 Bearcats selected in the NFL draft since Fickell's arrival in 2017. Among them are Packers tight end Josiah Deguara.
There were dozens of selections from his time at Ohio State. Among them are: DEs Joey Bosa and Cameron Hayward, LB Ryan Shazier, DBs Donte Whitner, Malcolm Jenkins, Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Denzel Ward, Eli Apple and Bradley Roby.