Fickell Sweats Through First Media Day
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — Luke Fickell’s face glistened and his voice boomed as he addressed a room full of reporters at the 2011 Big Ten Conference Media Days.
Photo by Dan Harker
Bulbs flashed and his hands gripped the podium as Ohio State’s new head coach faced the national media for the first time since taking over for Jim Tressel on May 30.
With his face serious and his message clear, Fickell gutted through his first media day by sidestepping potential pitfalls surrounding the quarterback position, his future at Ohio State and his contact with the school’s former head coach.
“As you can probably imagine, the last few months have been nothing less than a whirlwind, exciting, crazy, emotional, but yet very productive as well,” he said during his introductory address Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.
“I think from day one, the biggest thing that I've tried to do is focus on our leadership as well as trying to pound home the culture that we believe is important in moving our program forward.”
The 37-year old thought that would be the extent of his time at the podium, but quickly learned he would have to field questions like the other 11 coaches from the conference.
“I think the biggest thing is the mental challenge of not knowing what to expect, not knowing what you’re supposed to talk about, some of those things are mentally draining on you,” Fickell said.
“It’s a part of the game. You have to get up there.”
dons headsets to do radio at the Big Ten media day.
Photo by Dan Harker
Despite the fact he was caught off-guard, Fickell did a better job of handling this press conference than the introductory one back in June where he looked tense and nervous in his first foray into public speaking.
A first-time head coach, Fickell should only continue to improve his comfort level with the media, but it will likely never be one of his favorite parts of the job.
“I got into coaching to be a part of the game, run around the field screaming and hollering in a drill, whatever it is, but it’s a part of what you do,” he admitted.
“Like it or love it [sic], it’s a part of the job.”
The first question he faced Thursday was about the quarterback position now that Terrelle Pryor is officially persona non grata around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center (WHAC).
“That's going to be an interesting question. Again, I think our focus is going to be on a competitive nature.,” Fickell started.
“We have four obviously very capable guys…we're going to put them in situations where we think they can be successful. Each one is a little bit different in his own right. As we move along in camp, really focus on who we think gives us the best opportunity to win as a team.”
A very Tressel-esque answer that says either Fickell really doesn’t know who he thinks the top candidates are to replace Pryor this fall or he isn’t letting on before the start of fall camp.
No Contact with Tressel
One thing Fickell did seem sure of Thursday was the fact he has had very little contact with his former boss since his resignation back in May.
“I have not had a whole lot of contact with Coach Tressel,” Fickell restated.
“I know he has been very supportive. He loves Ohio State and wishes us nothing but the best.”
What was a resignation is now a retirement, but either way Fickell said he has not been instructed to avoid communication with the man who hired him as an assistant coach back in 2002.
“Just out of obviously respect and what Coach Tressel believes in and the respect for the entire team, what we're doing, we know we need to be who we are,” Fickell said.
“And continue to move forward and focus on the things we have, not the things we do not have anymore.”
One thing Fickell does have at his disposal is access to former OSU head coaches John Cooper and Earle Bruce, who were given an office at the WHAC by Tressel.
“I actually played for Coach John Cooper, and have had communication with him, as well as Coach Bruce,” Fickell said.
“Again, everybody has some insight for me. I'm trying to soak it all in, take it all in. It is a unique situation. You take a piece of each and every person. Just like as a coach, you become a lot of who you've been around. You take a piece of each person that you have been around and each person that has taught you some things.”
None of them have been in quite the same situation Fickell is in now, with his future at Ohio State very much uncertain. The 2011 season could be the start of a long career as the head coach or it could be a one-and-done situation for the former OSU nose guard.
“Nobody puts more pressure on themselves than me. So all the outside pressures are things that obviously you deal with. But the pressure you put upon yourself I think is greater,” Fickell said.
“What is the future? We know that we're excited about getting on the field, proving what we can do, focusing on what we can control, and everybody else will make those decisions for themselves.”
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