Fickell Gets It - Michigan Game Is The Yardstick
By John Porentas
Luke Fickell conducted his last press conference before the Michigan game today. What remains unclear is whether or not it was his last pregame press conference as the Head Coach at Ohio State.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"No," said Fickell when asked if he would comment on the rumors swirling about Urban Meyer being hired as the next OSU football coach.
"I'm going to have enough respect for this football game to make sure it's about this football game. I don't think this is the time or place.
"This is the most historic rivalry in college football, in sports in general. We're going to talk about the football game and stress the football game. That's what the most important thing is. I don't care what the situation is. That's the talk in our offices, that's the focus we've got."
Fickell's response was predictable. What was not predicable was the firmness with which he made it. There was no pause or hesitation, no wavering in his voice. In short, he said it not like a person trying to say the right thing, but like a person who really believed in what he was saying.
If nothing else, Luke Fickell "gets it" when it comes to the Ohio State - Michigan rivalry, and that alone will go a long way toward making him the right guy to have on the sidelines this Saturday.
"I know that there's a game at noon on Saturday. My ass will be there," Fickell responded when asked a second time about the Meyer situation.
That was the end of the Meyer questions, and that said a lot about Fickell's understanding of the rivalry. For him, it supercedes everything else that is going on this week, even though he is arguably the person who has the most to lose or gain as a result of all that other conversation.
The smart people think the Buckeyes don't have much of a chance this Saturday, that the time has come for the OSU winning streak over the Wolverines to end. The Wise-guys who set betting spreads have installed Michigan as a more-than one-touchdown favorite. Maybe the smart thing is to agree, but don't tell that to Fickell. He's seen too much of the rivalry to fall for that, too many times when the smart guys weren't so smart after all.
"Whether you've grown up around it (the rivalry) or just walked into it, whether you are from Columbus, Ohio, or from Miami, Florida, when you come here you know what it's about.
"When you visit here, whether a casual visit or an official visit, it's talked about. I think that's probably the thing. You can throw a lot of other things out the window, records and all that, whose favored," Fickell said.
Fickell gets it. The question now is, whether as a first-year head coach, he has helped his team to "get it" the way he does.
"It's about the game. That's what we've talked about since we walked into camp. That's what it's been about," Fickell said.
"It's not about talent. This game is not going to be won on talent. This game is going to be won on passion and toughness. I don't think that's ever changed in the Ohio State - Michigan game."
On Saturday we'll find out if Fickell has been able to instill enough passion and toughness in his Buckeye football team to allow it leave the field a winner. If he has, his reign as the OSU head football coach will have been successful, no matter how long it may or may not last. Because it's true. Your Buckeye career is remembered for your success in the Michigan game. Just ask Jim Tressel and John Cooper.