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Luke Fickell

Dec 27, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second half of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell is back for his second stint in the B1G. The former Ohio State assistant and Cincinnati head coach accepted the role as successor to former Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst at the end of last season following another year of underachieving in Madison.

Wisconsin was consistent in what it brought to the table under Paul Chryst: a great defense complemented by an average to below-average offense. It was time for a change in Madison when Fickell was hired out of Cincinnati.

Fickell has been a head coach in college football since 2017 and has yet to have a truly “bad” season. The Bearcats went 4-8 in his first season, but it’s tough to blame a new head coach taking over at a smaller conference school that went under .500 the year prior.

Fickell’s second season made it apparent he wouldn’t stand for 4-8. The Bearcats flipped the script, finishing the season 11-2 with a Military Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. They won 11 games in Year 3 under Fickell, too.

The 2020 season is overlooked because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cincinnati was incredible that season, too, losing just once for a final record of 9-1 with an AP Poll finish of No. 8.

What really cemented Fickell as one of the nation’s top young coaches was Cincinnati’s 2021 season. The Bearcats blitzed through the regular season with a 13-0 record. This forced the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, likely after some kicking and screaming, to give the Bearcats the final playoff spot.

The results of the semifinal game are irrelevant (27-6 loss to Alabama, the future champs) as far as Cincinnati is concerned. After 5 years and 4 seasons of winning, Fickell had taken the first non-Power 5 conference program to the College Football Playoff. As of 2023, it’s the only time it’s ever happened.

The Bearcats lost a lot the following season, but still posted a respectable 9-3 record under Fickell. He was then hired by Wisconsin and left for Madison immediately, leaving interim HC Kerry Coombs to lose the Fenway Bowl.

Fickell was named the AAC Coach of the Year 3 times in 6 seasons. Cincinnati has won 11 games in a season 5 times, and Fickell is responsible for 3 of them. In 2021, Fickell was named Coach of the Year by 7 separate awards, including the Eddie Robinson, Bobby Dodd and Home Depot Coach of the Year awards.

Something each of Fickell’s previous teams have in common is a strong defense, something that will fit with Wisconsin traditionalists well.

Fickell had 14 years of B1G experience as an assistant at Ohio State, coaching all over the defensive side of the ball, including a co-DC role during Ohio State’s 2014 national title victory over Oregon. Fickell also served as Ohio State’s interim head coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel resigned. The Buckeyes finished that year 6-6.

Head coaching in the B1G is a whole different game, though. Let’s see what he can do in Year 1 in Madison.

Luke Fickell’s Coaching Experience

Head Coaching Record

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