Consensus 2021 National Coach of the Year Luke Fickell joins Badgers after six seasons at Cincinnati

Courtesy UW Badgers

Consensus 2021 National Coach of the Year joins Badgers after six seasons at Cincinnati

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Director of Athletics Chris McIntosh announced the hiring of Luke Fickell as UW’s head football coach on Sunday. The consensus 2021 National Coach of the Year becomes the 31st head coach in program history.

“I am incredibly excited to announce Luke Fickell as our new head football coach and to welcome his entire family to Madison,” 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.

“I have every confidence that he will respect and honor the foundation that has been set for our football program over the years while embracing the exciting opportunities ahead.”

Fickell ushers in a new era of Badger football after elevating the University of Cincinnati football program to unprecedented success during his six seasons as head coach. Hired by the Bearcats on Dec. 10, 2016, he led Cincinnati to back-to-back 11-win campaigns in 2018 and 2019 and an undefeated regular season that culminated with a Peach Bowl berth in 2020. Then in 2021, Fickell guided the Bearcats to the greatest season in school history, leading them to an appearance in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Cotton Bowl and the first-ever 13-0 regular-season record in Bearcat history.

“I am thrilled with our hire of Luke Fickell as the head football coach of the Badgers,” UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin said. “He is a transformative hire for our program.

“In addition to the success he has already experienced as National Coach of the Year in 2021 and steering a team into the College Football Playoff, he shares our values and appreciates the importance of the college experience for our student-athletes.

“I am excited to see him help us build from our already solid foundation to reach even greater heights.”

In just six years, Fickell has emerged as one of the nation’s top coaches and positioned Cincinnati football as an elite program capable of consistently contending for championships. Fickell compiled a 57-18 (.760) record in his six seasons with UC. Prior to the Bearcats’ three 11-win campaigns under Fickell, the program had only accomplished the feat twice (2008 and 2009). Fickell earned his 54th win in 2022, cementing himself as the winningest coach in Cincinnati history. After going 4-8 in year one at Cincinnati, Fickell led the program to a 53-10 mark over the last five years. Over the last three seasons, only Alabama (36) and Georgia (34) have more wins than Cincinnati (31).

“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. There is a tremendous foundation here that I can’t wait to build upon. This world-class university, athletic department and passionately loyal fan base all have a strong commitment to success and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

By leading Cincinnati to new heights and its first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2021, Fickell collected eight national coaching honors in 2021, including the The Home Depot National Coach of the Year, Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year, the Stallings Award, the Eddie Robinson Award and the Dodd Trophy, as well as accolades from the AFCA, Walter Camp Foundation and Sporting News.

Fickell’s UC squad also secured a No. 2 ranking early in the fall in the Associated Press poll – its highest ranking in school history. Cincinnati defeated No. 9 Notre Dame, 24-13, in South Bend, Ind., for its first-ever road victory over a Top 10 team. The Bearcats capped the season by defeating No. 16 Houston, 35-20, for their second consecutive AAC championship.

Since beginning his stint in Cincinnati in 2017, Fickell watched 16 Bearcats earn a selection in the NFL draft, including a school-record nine draft picks in 2022, and captured AAC Coach of the Year honors three times (2018, 2020, 2021).

Off of the field, since his arrival at Cincinnati, the Bearcats’ four-year student-athletes posted a 100% graduation rate under Fickell.

With his arrival in Madison, Fickell returns to the Big Ten after an illustrious playing and coaching career at Ohio State. No stranger to championship-level football, Fickell was a part of nine Big Ten Conference titles (seven as a coach, two as a player), two national championship squads and 15 postseason games at Ohio State, including two College Football Playoff appearances. He served as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2005-2016.

Fickell gained head coaching experience in 2011, taking over the reins in Columbus for one season amid tumultuous circumstances across the program. He led the Buckeyes to a 6-6 regular season record and a berth in the Gator Bowl.

He returned to his role as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2012. Over the next five seasons, Fickell’s defensive units were a major reason the Buckeyes went 61-5 and won the 2014 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Fickell’s coaching career began at Ohio State. After spending a year on the injured reserve list with the New Orleans Saints, he was hired in 1999 as a graduate assistant at OSU by his college coach, John Cooper.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Fickell played for the Buckeyes from 1992-96, redshirting the first year and then starting the next four seasons at nose guard. He started a then school-record 50 consecutive games between 1993 and 1996.

He graduated from Ohio State in 1997 with a degree in exercise science. Fickell and his wife Amy have six children: Landon, Luca, twin sons Aydon and Ashton, and twin sons Laykon and Lucian.


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David Keech
Author: David Keech

David Keech is a math teacher in Wisconsin Rapids and public address announcer for Abbotsord High School. He officiates basketball, baseball, and softball in central Wisconsin. He has reported on amateur sports since 2011, known as 'KeechDaVoice.' David can be reached at [email protected]