University of Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has the Bearcats in the College Football Playoff, the first time since the CFP’s inception in 2014 that a non-Power Five program has had the opportunity to compete for a national championship. Even before this year’s impressive breakthrough, Fickell was generating interest from the NFL.
As Tom Pelissero of NFL.com writes, the Lions quietly discussed their head coaching vacancy with Fickell last year. Ultimately, of course, Detroit hired Dan Campbell, but given Fickell’s success this season, he is expected to be a more prominent figure in the upcoming NFL coaching cycle.
That is, of course, if he has any interest in leaving the collegiate ranks. Plenty of other successful college coaches have resisted the temptation to jump to the pros, and as Pelissero points out, the money being handed out to top college HCs these days rivals what first-time NFL HCs are earning. So Fickell may elect to remain where he is, especially since he may soon have the chance to parlay his success with Cincinnati into a post at a traditional college powerhouse.
Fickell, 48, has certainly paid his dues. A UDFA of the Saints back in 1997, he never actually played a regular season snap at the NFL level, and in 1999, he became a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Ohio State. After two years as the defensive line coach at Akron, Fickell returned to OSU, where he would remain for the next 15 seasons. He became the Bearcats’ HC in 2017 and has led the team to a 48-14 record.
Next up: a Cotton Bowl showdown with top-ranked Alabama.