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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 06/28/2011 10:50 PM

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Football
Interim Tag or Not, Fickell’s Life “Entrenched” at Ohio State
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Fickell talks like a man who plans on staying.

When he took over as the interim coach at Ohio State last month, following the resignation of Head Coach Jim Tressel, it seemed almost inevitable that Fickell and the rest of the coaching staff would eventually be shown the door after the 2011 season.

Luke Fickell
Photo by Dan Harker
Luke Fickell

After all, Fickell is a 37-year old with zero head coaching experience and nearly a decade of ties to Tressel, whose reputation has been severely stained by the NCAA cover-up. The deck would seem to be stacked against him heading into what will likely be a tumultuous 2011 season, but Fickell has no doubts about his ability to be successful at Ohio State despite everything that has transpired.

“Not one bit. I’ve been here long enough, I know what the foundation is, and I’ve played here,” Fickell said on The Dan Patrick Show Tuesday morning.

“So 15 or 18 years of my life entrenched in this program, I have no doubts.”

In the mid 1990’s there were few players tougher than Fickell, who played a school-record 50 consecutive games for the Buckeyes at one of the most physically demanding positions on the field. Although John Cooper’s defenses were loaded with talent, it was Fickell who brought it all together as a gritty, no-nonsense nose guard.

He became the special teams coordinator at Ohio State in 2002 and helped the Buckeyes finally capture the national championship that had eluded him as a player. Fickell spent six seasons as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator under Jim Heacock before being promoted to interim head coach, a tag that didn’t last long.

“They said they’re taking off any interim tag,” Fickell told Dan Patrick. 

“I am not sure if that was something he was supposed to talk about in the press conference or if (Gene Smith) brought it up, but they assured me that’s the way they wanted to go.”

The term “interim” means temporary or provisional; which is how many see Fickell’s time as the head coach at Ohio State. Removing that tag may help the Buckeyes in recruiting, but it doesn’t mean the university will not exhaust all of its options in finding the best man for the job after the 2011 season.

“Luke is our head coach this year,” an Ohio State spokesperson told the-Ozone.

“At some point, either during the season or after the season, a decision will be made on who will be our coach going forward.”

That very well might be Fickell, who has shown more passion and excitement for the opportunity—even under flawed circumstances—than just about anyone who has accepted any job anywhere in the country.

“It is exciting,” he told Dan Patrick.

“It has been a whirlwind as we speak, but with something that you grow up hoping and wishing and striving for, when something like that happens it becomes an unbelievable amount of excitement.”

Fickell is now the second-youngest coach in the Big Ten, having one year on Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, who turns 37 this December. Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema is 41 and then of course Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno is 84, but Fickell is confident he could handle any of them in the ring.

“Me,” Fickell responded when asked who would emerge from a Big Ten battle royal in the “Octagon.”

“I know my abilities and I have confidence in what I do. 18 years of wrestling does help a little bit in my book, but hey, you have to have confidence in what you do, right?”

That is exactly what Fickell projects as the new man in charge of the Buckeyes, but don’t look for him in a sweater vest come fall.

“I don’t think that’s a chance right now,” he said.

“There are some things that I say are sacred, and that may be one of them.”

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