The worst-kept secret in college football is no longer a secret. Luke Fickell is Cincinnati’s new head coach.
The school made the announcement Saturday afternoon after word had begun trickling in the Buckeye State since last night.
Fickell is a true son of Ohio State. Born in Columbus, he graduated from high school there, attended and met his wife at Ohio State, began his coaching career there and spent all but two seasons as a Buckeye — and those two seasons were at Akron.
Now he’ll move down state to a program that has placed Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame and Butch Jones at Tennessee.
The current occupier of the job Fickell surely wants announced his blessing of the move shortly after it went official.
As Tom Herman and Kirby Smart did before him, Fickell will remain with the Buckeyes through their College Football Playoff run.
“It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati,” Fickell said in a statement. This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort. That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city and we will make you proud.”
Looks like Cincinnati didn’t need to go far to find their replacement for Tommy Tuberville.
According to Toledo sports reporter Jordan Strack, the Bearcats will make the hire of Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell official on Saturday.
A person told USA Today that talks between the two parties were progressing on Friday night but not yet complete.
The move makes plenty of sense for Fickell, a Columbus, Ohio native who has spent nearly his entire career in the state not too far from Cincinnati. He did serve as interim head coach of the Buckeyes back when Jim Tressel was fired and was retained by Urban Meyer and served as one of the mainstays of the defensive staff.
Cincinnati has served as a bit of a stepping-stone job to major openings around the Midwest and has proven to be one of the more desirable jobs in the AAC given the resources at the school and the local talent base. The hiring of somebody like Fickell makes plenty of sense on both ends and it seems like the only unknown at this point is whether he sticks around for Ohio State’s semifinal game against Clemson or heads to Cincinnati right away.
Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining. Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.
The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job. According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.
The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today. It could, though, come this weekend.
Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.
In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.
In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.
The writing appeared to be on the wall as the 2016 season continued to play out, but the end of the Tommy Tuberville era in Cincinnati appears to have been reached.
As reported by Football Scoop this morning, Tuberville has decided to step down as head coach of the program. USA Today has also reported this decision. The resignation comes at the end of a disappointing 4-8 season for the Bearcats, who once again fell well shy of a division championship in the American Athletic Conference. What is unknown at this time is how much of Tuberville’s buyout will be paid, as the date for a drop in his buyout terms was scheduled for later this week, dropping the buyout terms from $2.4 million to $1.5 million.
We also do not know if this is the end of Tuberville as a head coach. Perhaps a change of scenery would benefit Tuberville? Who knows. But the Cincinnati job now coming on the market puts an interesting job on the list of vacancies. Like Houston, the Cincinnati job appears to be one of the more attractive Group of Five jobs given what the university has invested in the program in recent years and has planned going forward. The Cincinnati program should be in a situation to compete annually for an AAC championship, despite what the past two years have shown. Early names floating around as potential names of interest include Western Michigan’s PJ Fleck (and yes, this would be a step up despite leaving Group of Five job for another) and Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm. Either would be fine additions for Cincinnati, but where Cincinnati falls in the pecking order with other suitors looking for a head coach is in question. The Cincinnati job may not quite be the Houston job, but is it better than Purdue? Baylor?
Every coach thinks differently about coaching jobs, so well wait to see where Cincinnati goes from here and what names are attracted to the job.
The 2016 season has been a frustrating one for Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville. After losing at home against BYU this weekend, Tuberville let his emotions get the best of him when he made the unfortunate decision to lash out a fan who was hurling insults in his direction as the coach walked off the field.
“Hey, go to Hell,” Tuberville yelled. “Get a job. Get a job!”
It wasn’t a great look, but Tuberville took time on Monday to make sure he addressed it with an apology before turning the page to move on to what’s next for the Bearcats.
“I don’t like losing any more than our fans, donors, players and supporters,” Tuberville said in a statement released via Twitter. “Emotions can get the best of us. I had a regrettable outburst at a moment of great frustration. I apologize for that and we will fix it.”
Cincinnati AD Mike Bohn also released a statement about the incident on Sunday, claiming Tuberville was in a no-win situation.
Cincinnati is 4-5 and just 1-4 in the AAC this season, putting the program at risk of missing the postseason bowl fun for the first time since 2010.