Wisconsin has targeted Luke Fickell to be the school’s next head coach, sources told ESPN. No deal is signed, but there’s a strong push by the Badgers to try and land Fickell in the next 48 hours.
Fickell led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff last season and has gone 57-18 in his six years there. Fickell’s 2021 Bearcats team went 13-0 before losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff, becoming the first Group of 5 team to reach the CFP.
Fickell has strong roots in the Big Ten, as he was a longtime assistant coach and coordinator at Ohio State and played there collegiately. He’d been picky about jobs over the years as Cincinnati rose to the top of the Group of 5, being selective about the Midwestern footprint.
Fickell would replace Paul Chryst, who was fired in the middle of the season after going 67-26 in eight seasons there. He’d been replaced by Jim Leonhard, who had been the defensive coordinator and was considered a candidate for the head-coaching job.
Fickell’s attraction to the Badgers’ brass, along with his record and roots in the league, is his ability to build a program. Fickell turned Cincinnati into one of the country’s best development programs, taking modest recruits and consistently churning out strong teams.
Last year, Fickell’s Bearcats had nine players picked in the NFL draft, which was third behind only Georgia (15) and LSU (10).
Fickell spent one season as an interim coach in the Big Ten, going 6-7 in 2011 in the wake of the firing of Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He stayed patient from there, working as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and winning a national championship in the 2014 season.