Former Ohio State coach, and Columbus native, Luke Fickell is striving to build a perennial contender just two hours south at the University of Cincinnati. The fourth-year taskmaster will lead his Bearcats into a nationally-ranked matchup with Army Saturday afternoon inside Nippert Stadium, looking for a 2-0 start to the season.
The No. 15 Bearcats walloped Austin Peay in their opener last week, while the No. 22 Black Knights enter with a pair of lopsided wins over Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe.
A 1997 Ohio State alum, Fickell played nose guard for the Buckeyes in the mid-90’s before staying aboard as a graduate assistant. After a brief stint with Akron, he rejoined OSU’s staff as the special teams coordinator in 2002 and began working his way up the chain.
Fickell moved to coach the linebackers, then serve as co-defensive coordinator before assuming the spotlight as interim head coach for the 2011 season. He admirably helped keep the program afloat during its tough time and bridge the gap from Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer.
Following that transition, Meyer kept Fickell on staff as the sole defensive coordinator and the Buckeyes flourished. Ohio State finished that ensuing season a perfect 12-0 and, while not eligible for the postseason, reset the foundation for the successful program you see now.
Fickell eventually took Cincinnati’s lead job in December of 2016, hired on as the 42nd head coach in program history. He has delivered an impressive 27-13 overall mark since, turning an initial 4-8 record that first season into a pair of 11-win campaigns. The Bearcats have only won consecutive Bowl games over Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Outside of a 42-0 loss to Ohio State last year, Cincinnati’s only setbacks were a pair of narrow defeats to American Athletic Conference (AAC) champion Memphis. Fickell then found a way to keep 2020 dual quarterback recruit Evan Prater, one of the top players in Ohio, home in Cincinnati and away from Power 5 schools.
Now, his rising program hopes to take the next step and remain a presence in the national rankings when the Big Ten and Pac-12 return.