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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football: Wisconsin ushers in Luke Fickell era with celebration at Camp Randall Stadium

‘We’ve got one objective and one goal and that’s to play for a championship,’ Fickell says in introduction to UW
Photo Credit: Sam Harrigan/The Badger Herald

The University of Wisconsin made the hiring of head football coach Luke Fickell official Monday afternoon.

At a large event in the newly renovated south endzone at Camp Randall Stadium, Fickell, alongside Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin and Director of Athletics Chris McIntosh, spoke to staff, players, boosters and others associated with UW’s football program.

Fickell, the former head coach at the University of Cincinnati, will be taking over in a full-time capacity for Paul Chryst, who was fired from the position on October 2. For the last seven games of the season, Wisconsin was led by interim Head Coach Jim Leonhard, who had been Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator.


Fickell agreed to a seven-year contract that will pay an average of $7.8 million per year, McIntosh said in a press conference. This contract would have made Fickell the 12th-highest paid coach in college football in the 2022 season.

While Leonhard seemed likely as the successor to his former boss, the athletic department made a shocking move by bringing the 2021 unanimous coach of the year to Madison, breaking Wisconsin’s traditional mold of hiring former Badgers.

UPDATED: Football: Wisconsin names Luke Fickell head football coach

“There’s been a lot on wins and losses, and I just want to be clear, that’s not what this was about,” McIntosh said when asked about Leonhard’s consideration for the job. “I gave him very strong consideration.”

It is unclear whether Leonhard will remain on staff at Wisconsin, but Fickell mentioned that the two spoke at length earlier in the week in regards to his future.

Fickell, like Leonhard, is a former interim head coach of his alma mater. He went 6-7 in his lone year as the head man at Ohio State, where he coached for a total of 14 seasons.

From Ohio State, Fickell took the head coaching job at the University of Cincinnati, where he led the Bearcats to two conference championships and two New Year’s Six bowl games, most notably their 2021 appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Fickell has been a part of two national championship winning teams. He was the special teams coach for the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes and the co-defensive coordinator of the 2014 champion Buckeyes.

Football: Four Badgers enter transfer portal as Jim Leonhard era begins

“We’ve got one objective and one goal, and that’s to play for a championship,” Fickell said in a press conference. “I’m confident we’ll have a team that’s fired up for the direction of the program.”

While it is unclear what the immediate future holds for Fickell, it seems likely there will be significant changes for Leonhard and all of Wisconsin football in the coming days. Fickell was hesitant to describe any changes he will make to the current Wisconsin team and coaching staff, but according to a report from ESPN, Cincinnati strength coach Brady Collins will follow Fickell to Wisconsin.

Collins has been a significant part of Cincinnati’s success, as he has helped 16 Bearcats reach the NFL since he took the job at Cincinnati in 2017. None of those 16 players were more than a three-star recruit, according to 247 sports.

Recruiting and the transfer portal will be interesting to monitor for Wisconsin as a number of former Cincinnati and Wisconsin recruits have already decommitted from their respective schools.

“Those guys are our number one priority,” Fickell said when asked about honoring scholarship offers Wisconsin sent out before he took over.

Fickell was clear that he and his staff, will be active in building new relationships and trust with those players before they make any other changes to the recruiting strategy.

It is likely that a handful of current Wisconsin players will enter the transfer portal in the coming days. While unclear who, many players have expressed displeasure with the way the firing of Paul Chryst — and now, the hiring of Luke Fickell — was handled in-house.

Paul Chryst removed from head coach position on Badger football team

But, despite the outspoken displeasure, many of these players showed up to Fickell’s welcome event, including Nick Herbig. Herbig, Wisconsin’s defensive leader, has made his irritation known both on his personal social media accounts and in recent interviews.

“I do not want to be a transfer team,” Fickell said when asked about the use of the transfer portal. “The last thing I want to do is bring a guy in here who will mess with the culture.”

Fickell will not return to Cincinnati this season and he will coach in an unclear role for Wisconsin in their upcoming bowl game.

“Trust, respect and love,” Fickell said when asked what he will try to establish in the weeks before the bowl game. “If I’m not around while they are practicing… I’m losing an opportunity to really help develop that relationship.”

The outlook of Wisconsin football’s future changed dramatically in the last 24 hours, but there is significant optimism as one of college football’s premier coaches is poised to lead Wisconsin back the powerhouse program it has been.

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