Exactly two weeks after Jim Tressel‘s stunning resignation, Ohio State has finally gotten around to making their next (interim) head coach available to the media.
Fickell, who becomes the 23rd head coach in the school’s storied history, was introduced by athletic director Gene Smith, who spoke of shifting the focus of the beleaguered football program back onto the field.
“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” Smith said. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”
As expected, Fickell did not address the myriad allegations swirling around the program, but their were a few noteworthy nuggets tossed out during the presser as to what the OSU faithful can expect with the former Buckeyes player and long-time assistant in charge:
— Needless to say, the first question involved NCAA issues, with Fickell claiming that he had no knowledge of violations allegedly being committed by football players.
“I was not informed of any information until it became public knowledge.”
— Fickell said that he had not spoken to Terrelle Pryor since the day after Tressel’s resignation because of the hectic and unexpected nature of the situation. The quarterback, of course, announced last week that he would be foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility, probably for a shot at the NFL’s supplemental draft.
— There is an opening on his coaching staff, and Fickell said that situation will be addressed in the coming weeks. When a coach is added, it will be on the defensive side of the ball.
— Given his lack of experience with the unit, Fickell confirmed that long-time offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will handle play-calling duties, although Fickell will certainly have input into the game plan as its formulated in the days leading up to kickoff. Additionally, there will likely be no major changes to the offense.
— Reiterating what he stated in a sit-down interview with the Big Ten Network prior to the press conference, Fickell said that “[o]ur goal is to lead the nation in these categories: effort, turnovers and toughness.”
— In the hours after Tressel stepped down, Fickell spoke to his former boss. Tressel’s advice? “Be yourself”.
–Fickell’s two-year deal was amended to reflect his rise to interim and head coach and he will make $775,000 in 2011, with bonuses that could push that figure to over $1 million.
It had been announced on March 30 that Fickell would serve as the team’s interim head coach as Tressel served his five-game suspension. Shortly after Tressel’s resignation on Memorial Day, the school announced that “Fickell will serve as interim head coach for the 2011-2012 football season” and that the “[r]ecruitment for a new head coach – which is expected to include external and internal candidates – will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”
We said it before and it deserves reiterating when it comes to Fickell’s chance at becoming the full-time coach at his alma mater: The former Ohio State player will be in charge of the football team from now until the end of the season and will certainly be given the opportunity to state his case that the “interim” tag should be stripped from his current title. Some have already begun to dismiss the possibility that Fickell could be a long-term, permanent fix on the sidelines; I haven’t, and I won’t. Fickell is a helluva football coach and will be leading a major Div. 1-A football program at some point in the next five years. Hopefully, he’ll be given serious consideration by those who will ultimately make the decision.
Unless, of course, Urban Meyer says yes to the overtures that are certain to come at some point in the future.