Fickell interested in Pitt job

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Last updated: 12/17/2011 11:08 AM

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Fickell Confirms Interest in Pitt, Unsure How Much
By Brandon Castel

Ohio State assistant coach Luke Fickell confirmed Saturday that he has spoken to the University of Pittsburgh about their vacant head coaching position, but has not been offered the job at this time.

According to a report by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Fickell was contacted by a Pitt administrator through a mutual friend about the position that became available when Todd Graham made his midnight bolt to Arizona State.

Fickell has not officially interviewed for the job, but did admit that there is some interest in becoming a head coach at a university like Pittsburgh.

“Hey, it's a dream of mine (to be a head coach),” he told the Tribune-Review.

“Someday, when it's right.”

Could someday be coming sooner than expected? Fickell is believed to be one of three candidates for the job, along with Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Florida International head coach Mario Cristobal, who has led the Golden Panthers to back-to-back bowl appearances—the first in school history.

Fickell is currently preparing Ohio State to play the University of Florida in the 2012 Gator Bowl. The Buckeyes are coming off a 6-6- regular season in which Fickell served as the interim head coach following the forced resignation of Jim Tressel back in May.

The Buckeyes faced unprecedented adversity during the 2011 season—both on and off the field—and Urban Meyer eventually replaced Fickell after Ohio State’s first loss to Michigan since 2003.

Meyer immediately met with Fickell in order to gauge his interest in remaining on the staff at his alma mater as a defensive assistant. The former Ohio State nose guard, who started a school-record 50 straight games for the Buckeyes in the 1990s, also had interest from the University of Akron, where he spent two years as a defensive line coach before joining Tressel’s staff in 2002.

Ultimately, Fickell decided it was best for him and his family to join forces with Meyer rather than replace Rob Ianello at Akron. The Pitt job presents a different opportunity for Fickell, who admittedly would like to be a head coach, especially after getting his feet wet as the interim coach in Columbus this season.

“They have great history,” he told the Tribune-Review.

“They have great tradition. They have a great high school state for football.”

Fickell was just in the Hershey State, along with Meyer and Mike Vrabel, to watch 5-star defensive end Noah Spence play in the PIAA Class AAA championship for Bishop McDevitt.

The Crusaders were crushed 52-0 in a game that was over by halftime, but the real winners could be on the Ohio State sideline if they are able to lure Spence out of the Harrisburg area in central Pa.

The Buckeyes have had good success recruiting Pennsylvania over last 4-5 years. Most notably, they landed 5-star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his teammate Jordan Hall out of Jeannette, but also Corey Brown and Dorian Bell out of Monroeville, Andrew Sweat out of Washington, and Corey “Philly” Brown out of the Philadelphia area.

It makes sense that Pitt would be interested in Fickell, especially after Meyer announced that he would carry the title of defensive coordinator and call the defenses for Ohio State next season.

The Panthers would love to put an end to that, and hiring Fickell would be a great start. Fickell also has connections in Maryland and Virginia, where he helped Ohio State land 5-star linebacker Curtis Grant a year ago.

It also makes sense that Fickell would be interested in the job. He wants to be a head coach and would love to be running his alma mater someday. Maybe he even thought that “someday” would be right now considering he spent this season as the interim coach, but the reality is that Fickell will need to get valuable hands-on experience as a head coach somewhere else before he is a serious candidate to be the full-time head coach at Ohio State.

He is 38-years old. If Fickell goes to Pitt and has success, it will go much further than success as Urban Meyer’s defensive coordinator. Maybe he will even be in position to replace Meyer, if he were to leave the program in the next 10 years.

But Fickell also has a passion for Ohio State that runs deep. He was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and played his high school ball at DeSales, where he was also a state wrestling champion.

Fickell and his wife, Amy, have already developed a relationship with Urban and Shelley Meyer, and they have spoken often about their love for Columbus, where Fickell has spent all but five years of his life.

If in fact he is offered the job at Pitt, it is going to be a tough decision. It would be a definite pay increase from the $775,000 he is scheduled to make as an assistant, but it would also mean abandoning the players who relied so heavily on Fickell’s fortitude during a turbulent time in their lives.

Whatever he decides to do, it is likely to happen fast, although he is unsure of the next step.

“I really don't know how this whole thing works,” he told the Tribune-Review.

“Obviously, it's a touchy subject over there how it (Graham's resignation) happened. Things happen fast.”

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