Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell’s name has been thrown around as more coaching jobs have become open, but they’ve all been rumors up to this point — he made it clear his focus was winning a championship with the Bearcats.
As many college coaching positions have been filled, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports that Fickell has been on the radar of NFL teams even before the start of this season.
FILE – Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell speaks with quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) prior to an NCAA college football game against Miami (Ohio) in Cincinnati, in this Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, file photo. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File)
The 48-year-old is expected to be in the mix for NFL coaching jobs during the upcoming hiring cycle and interviewed with the Detroit Lions last year before the team hired Dan Campbell — so he has at least shown interest in the NFL in the past — Pelissero reports.
“But his excellent reputation as a leader of men during 15 years on staff at Ohio State and the past five years with the upstart Bearcats makes him intriguing, in much the same way Titans coach Mike Vrabel rose from the same Buckeyes staff,” Pelissero writes.
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell watches from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Fickell spent one season on injured reserve as a player with the New Orleans Saints in 1997, but has never coached in the league.
Nearly all the top college jobs that opened recently have been filled, with the exception of Oklahoma. Would it make sense for Fickell to leave for the pros if he can practically pick his next college stop?
“Massive money is flying at the college level now, with Brian Kelly most recently getting a 10-year, $100 million pact to leave Notre Dame for LSU. Michigan State’s Mel Tucker [$95 million] and Penn State’s James Franklin [$85 million] also cashed in recently on 10-year deals,” Pelissero writes. “That changes the calculus for college coaches who have drawn NFL interest, such as Lincoln Riley, who recently left Oklahoma for his own nine-figure contract at USC, and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, who has spoken in recent years with the Lions and New York Jets and drawn interest from high-powered college programs as well.”
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, right, stands on the sidelines during the first half of the American Athletic Conference championship NCAA college football game against Houston Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
While it isn’t clear if Cincinnati has the financial means to entice Fickell to sign an extension, we do know Fickell is focused on winning a championship with his team for now.