Welcome to Wisconsin!
Wisconsin Director of Athletics Chris McIntosh announced the hiring of Luke Fickell as the University of Wisconsin’s head football coach on Sunday, November 27.
“I am incredibly excited to announce Luke Fickell as our new head football coach and to welcome his entire family to Madison,” McIntosh said during a press conference. “Luke is one of the top football coaches in the country. He is a proven winner, recruiter and developer of players. Equally as important, he shares our values. Coach Fickell is focused on giving our student-athletes the best opportunities possible and is attuned to the changing landscape of college athletics.
“I have every confidence that he will respect and honor the foundation that has been set for our football program over the years while embracing the exciting opportunities ahead.”
Photo Cred: Peterborough Examiner
Track Record at Cincinnati
Fickell was previously the head coach of Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to the College Football Playoffs last season. He took a next-to-nothing football program and made it successful and respectable.
Fickell has gone 57-18 in his six years at Cincinnati. They went 13-0 before losing to Alabama in the playoff semifinals last year. The Bearcats were the first Group of Five team to reach the CFP. This year, they finished 9-3 (6-2 in the AAC) and were ranked as the 24th-best team in the nation.
They came just short of being a part of the 2022 AAC Football Championship Game. #19 Tulane (10-2 overall, 7-1 AAC) and #22 UCF (9-3 overall, 6-2 AAC) would come ahead of the Bearcats, with Tulane beating Cincinnati to end the season.
Photo Cred: Fox 19 Photo Cred: Down the Drive
This hiring marks a very exciting and interesting move. Wisconsin has grabbed the country’s top Group of 5 coach, one who brings lots of great experiences to the table. He will undoubtedly bring a new Wisconsin football program to the Big Ten.
“This is a destination job at a program that I have admired from afar for years,” Fickell said in a statement. “I am in total alignment with Chris McIntosh’s vision for this program. There is a tremendous foundation here that I can’t wait to build upon. This world-class university, athletic department and passionately loyal fan base all have a strong commitment to success, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports
Roots in the Big 10
Fickell actually has strong roots in the Big Ten. He was an assistant coach and coordinator at Ohio State, which will prove to be an asset when playing them next season, I am sure. Fickell also played there as well.
“He’s a great fit for our program and our culture, for our style of play,” McIntosh told ESPN. “As we went through the process, we became more and more comfortable with each other, and with the fit, and with what our university and the city of Madison have to offer. It came together that way. For them, based upon the opportunities he’s had presented, they’ve been able to be choosy. I’m stoked for sure, but I feel real grateful we found somebody that sees the world a similar way.”
Photo Cred: Wikipedia Photo Cred: SFD Stallion Pride
The (Potentially Two?) Outgoing Coaches
Fickell is replacing Paul Chryst, who was fired mid-season, and also Jim Leonhard, the Badgers’ defensive coordinator and interim HC. Leonhard was also a candidate for the head-coaching job. McIntosh has stated that it was not easy telling Leonhard that he wouldn’t be getting the permanent job.
“That was a very difficult conversation only because of how much I respect Jimmy, how much I care about Jimmy, how much Jimmy means to our program, everything he’s done for our program as a player, as a coordinator, and then everything he did for us this year,” McIntosh said. “That keeps adding to the storyline of how much he means to our program. I think more of Jimmy today than I ever have. It’s important for people to know that. It was an incredibly difficult decision, but I felt like it was the right one for the long-term benefit of the program.”
Photo Cred: The Champaign Room Photo Cred: YouTube
Building the Right Program
Fickell, no doubt, wants to build a good program here. The UW football program is one that has been admired for decades, one that has always been strong and successful. This year proved to be an off year for the Badgers with lots of room to grow and improve.
Like I said before, Fickell turned Cincinnati into one of the country’s best development programs. He took okay recruits and created a strong, winning team.
McIntosh said he and Fickell spent time discussing the transfer portal and name, image, and likeness (NIL), as well as ways for Wisconsin to move forward and avoid complacency.
“I’m really excited to take our program forward with Luke,” McIntosh said. “I’m excited about our potential, I’m excited about what this means for our program. I am excited about the message this sends to our fans and to our players, and to those kids who are interested in our program. It sends a strong signal that we are committed to our program being successful in the long term. As the world changes, we will change with it.”
Photo Cred: Badgers Wire Photo Cred: Cincinnati Enquirer
Looking Forward to the Future
Wisconsin has struggled with recruiting over the years, so Fickell has his work cut out for him. Chryst was never fond of NIL and the new ways of recruiting, as he liked to do things the old-fashioned way. That just does not cut it anymore. Why else do you think we’ve had the same starting quarterback for the past four years? Why has QB Graham Mertz not received any actual competition for the starting quarterback position?
Personally, I am excited to see Mertz gone and even more excited to see who they replace him with. We do know that at least one player will be added to the mix (Cole LaCrue), as I mentioned before in a previous article.
Photo Creds: (L) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, (R) BadgerNotes Newsletter – Substack
I am feeling very reassured and positive about this hiring decision. I am excited to see how the 2023-24 season goes with Fickell as Wisconsin’s new head coach!
With Fickell at the helm, it will be a new era for Wisconsin football, and hopefully a winning era. I believe that Fickell will build the Badger football foundation to great new heights in the upcoming seasons.
Photo Cred: FOX19 Photo Cred: Wisconsin Badgers