Luke Fickell filled in during a rough situation at Ohio State during his interim year, and went 6-7. Urban Meyer came in the next season and went undefeated. Is that an indictment of Fickell’s coaching ability? Does it matter given that he’s got Cincy rolling since taking over in 2016?
Adam: Interim seasons are almost total crapshoots. I might hold it against him if he hadn’t also done a great job at Cincinnati. He’s been highly-respected in the coaching industry for awhile and that one year at Ohio State did nothing to hurt his reputation.
Luke: As underwhelming as that brief stint as OSU head coach was, it was wayyy back in 2011. Think about how long ago that was, in Arkansas football terms. Given how he’s progressed in his career since then, it appears that he used that season as a learning opportunity.
Saul: I straight up forgot that Luke Fickell was the interim coach because that was almost 10 years ago now. I’m not gonna hold that against him. He’s turned The Bearcats into a legitimate team very quickly.
Tucker: He was in a totally blameless situation that year at Ohio State, so I don’t hold that against him. That could’ve gone great, but it could’ve been so much worse. With what he’s been able to do at Cincy, I’m totally on board with him being a candidate for the job.
What would you like about this hire?
Adam: Of all the reasonable candidates I’ve seen, I’d say he probably has the lowest chance of being a failure at Arkansas. Him or Matt Campbell. There may be plenty to question about how he’d fit here and whether he’d win a championship (or whether he’d go to Ohio State if it opened up unexpectedly), but there’s no question in my mind that he’s just a good football coach. If you think regional ties are overrated, he’s probably your best bet.
Luke: Fickell got his Bearcats to overperform quickly, considering he was following Tommy Tuberville’s late-career run-out-the-clock period. His team made a huge leap in his second year and has only gotten better in his third.
Saul: His floor is the highest. He’s got a good chance of success and a lower potential fail rate than a lot of the potential candidates. He’s gotten his Cincinnati teams to perform and perform quickly. The guy knows his stuff as a coach. He’s confident in his ability.
Tucker: This probably wouldn’t be the kind of “name” fans are expecting, but I do think it’s a “name” in the coaching community. A lot of people in the profession really, really respect Luke Fickell, and it would definitely send a resonant message. I think that would help a lot with getting great recruiters and coordinators. I think he would have the highest floor of potential candidates.
What would give you reservations about this hire?
Adam: If Ryan Day leaves Ohio State for some reason, there’s a pretty good chance he leaves, especially if he’s doing well. There are plenty of candidates out there with lower chances of ever leaving.
Luke: Can Fickell even exist outside of the state of Ohio? He’s coached in college for twenty years and hasn’t yet left the state. Finding the right assistants to help build regional connections will be key.
Saul: He’s got to build a staff that has ties around the region and if he doesn’t do that the right way, it’s going to be tough to recruit in some places we need to recruit well in. Also, my man for sure wants to be an Ohio State HC again and if given the opportunity, I think he’d take it, regardless of what he was doing at Arkansas.
Tucker: I would really worry that he’d leave if Ohio State opened up, as the others have observed. It’s clearly his dream job, and he had it for a fleeting moment, so he knows what it feels like. I didn’t realize that he had never left Ohio as a coach until Luke observed that. That’s a little concerning, but wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.
Would you personally be happy with this hire?
Adam: I’d be thrilled with this hire. Fickell is the kind of solid, proven, stabilizing coach that Arkansas could use right about now.
Luke: When Arkansas announced a 2022 game against Cincinnati, my first thought was: God, I hope Fickell is gone before that game. Well, I wouldn’t have imagined he’d be coaching on the other sideline, but if that were to happen, count me pleased.
Saul: Yes. He’s a proven winner and I think could bring a lot of stability to the program that we desperately need.
Tucker: He checks all the boxes, and has done massive programs and not so massive programs. I’d certainly ask if he’d be interested. I’d be all aboard a Fickell train.