There’s only one head coaching job available in FBS football, Michigan State. This should mean that the Spartans have their pick of coaches. Given that Michigan State is not that far removed from a trip to the College Football Playoff, and has more money than they know what to do with, this shouldn’t be a tough job to fill.
That’s why Cincinnati fans were hiding in their apocalypse shelters when it became clear that Luke Fickell was the front runner for the job.
It made perfect sense for both parties.
Michigan State would get a young, but experience coach who had won 22 games in the past two seasons. Fickell is also an excellent recruiter, who just took in a better class in the AAC than Michigan State did in the Big Ten. He would be able to open up Ohio for them, and give the Spartans a chance to surpass Michigan.
Furthermore, Luke Fickell is a B1G guy. He played and coached at Ohio State for all but the two seasons he was a defensive line coach at Akron, and now his three years at Cincinnati.
The two are a cultural and regional fit to one another. He’s a defense first, mid-western coach. That’s who they are as a program. They proved they like a long term plan with Mark Dantonio. Fickell’s loyalty to Ohio State, even through a head coaching change, proves he is in it for the long haul too.
That’s what makes it strange that Fickell has reportedly turned down Michigan State.
Sources: Luke Fickell has decided to stay at Cincinnati. After interviewing for Michigan State on Sunday and talking it over with his family, he elected to stay put.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 10, 2020
Given the fit, and pay raise of the Michigan State job, it’s surprising he has chosen to stay at Cincinnati.
It’s possible that Fickell is concerned about the possible violations that may be coming down on the Spartans. After all, Dantonio retired almost immediately after the lawsuit against Michigan State came out. He can deny the two are related, but there’s something suspicious there.
Fickell may also just not want to leave the state of Ohio. He clearly loves it there, and has never worked outside Ohio before. It may be a matter of comfort.
It’s also not unreasonable that Fickell knows he can make a couple million a year in the AAC, and always compete at the top of the conference. The B1G East is arguably the best division in college football. He may prefer to build a power in a less prestigious conference with the guys he already knows.
Whatever the reason Fickell chose to stay at Cincinnati, they must be good. By turning down Michigan State, Fickell is turning down a pay raise of millions of dollars a year, and a much more prestigious job.
As for Cincinnati, they’ve managed to survive another coaching carousel with their great, energetic coach still in tow. Expect them to be at the top of the AAC for years to come.