The Wisconsin Badgers have officially hired Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell to be their next head coach, per the university.
The Columbus, Ohio native has led the Bearcats’ program for the past six seasons, compiling a 57-18 record. The highlight of his tenure was leading Cincinnati to a playoff berth in 2021 following a 13-0 season, as Fickell won multiple Coach of the Year awards in the process.
Although Cincinnati is a Group of 5 school, Fickell has deep Big Ten ties. He played for Ohio State from 1992-96 and spent the better part of his first 15 years as an assistant coach with the Buckeyes. He’s had the opportunity to return to the Big Ten, but has been picky with his potential landing spots.
“I am incredibly excited to announce Luke Fickell as our new head football coach and to welcome his entire family to Madison,” Athletic Director Chris McIntosh said. “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.”
This decision was unexpected. Interim Coach Jim Leonhard’s glowing resume with the program, from his All-American playing days to sustained success as defensive coordinator, made him a favorite to land the job. Some reporters have even indicated for weeks that Leonhard was already selected as the next head coach. Multiple players also voiced their support for Leonhard, including safety John Torchio and linebacker Nick Herbig.
“He is a superb defensive coordinator and an all time great Badger who deserves huge gratitude and respect, from his student-athlete days to now,” Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said of Leonhard.
On Sunday morning, Fickell informed the University of Cincinnati and players that he was preparing to take the Wisconsin job.
“My family and I are thrilled to join the Wisconsin family,” Fickell said. “This is a destination job at a program that I have admired from afar for years. I am in total alignment with Chris McIntosh’s vision for this program.”
The introductory press conference with McIntosh and Fickell will be held at roughly 4 p.m. on Monday.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at 5:48 p.m. with information regarding the announcement of Luke Fickell as the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Donnie Slusher is the sports editor for the Daily Cardinal. He has written multiple breaking news stories, sports columns and an in-depth examination of race in Wisconsin football. Follow Donnie on Twitter at @DonnieSlusher_