The Good, The Bad and The Okay from Luke Fickell's Introduction
By Tony Gerdeman
Photo by Dan Harker
Luke Fickell spoke to the media Monday for the first time as Ohio State's head football coach. While I was expecting a homerun, it's not easy to take one over the wall when the fence is 500 feet from the plate.
Still, given the fact that he had to answer questions about a whole laundry list of issues, and this was the first time he had an opportunity to do so, maybe we can consider this a gapper to left center.
Don't worry though, once the talk returns to football, Fickell's slugging percentage will increase. Until then, he might just have to play station-to-station baseball.
(Yes, I am suffering from baseball beat withdrawal.)
So now that Fickell is firmly entrenched, or at least as firmly as an interim head coach can be, we can finally turn our attention to America's number one pastime – critiquing coaches!
This being most of the nation's first exposure to Fickell, he no doubt made some lasting impressions with his comments, and since we have no games to second guess and critique, all we have to go on is Monday's press conference.
So with that in mind, let's take a look at some of the comments from Head Coach Luke Fickell that struck me the most.
During his opening statements, Fickell thanked Jim Tressel.
“And to Coach Tressel. For the opportunity he's given me, for the friendship, and for making me a better coach, husband and father. I thank him.”
Watching these words being said, you could see the heartfelt emotion with which he spoke. I was even waiting for him to take a step back in order to gather himself. I doubt those words will win him any favor with the powers that be, but it was also pretty clear that he didn't much care.
Continuing his opening statement, he talked about certain expectations that he had for this team, and any of his teams going forward.
“Let me be clear, the 2011 Buckeyes will not be comparing and contrasting what we've done before. But what we believe we will need to do to move forward.
"It will be about respect, toughness and being men of action. Those will be our focuses.
"Respect for the great state of Ohio, for the histories and the traditions that have come before us. And most importantly, for the respect of one another.
"And toughness. We will embrace the expectations, as well as the grind and pressures it takes every day to be successful on and off the field.
"And to be men of action. It won't be about words. It will be about us being as one. Playing as a team and a family with a selfless all-in mentality.
"Ohio State is so much bigger than any one team, one player, one coach, or one situation. We all understand that change is inevitable, it's growth that is optional. And we believe that this is a time for growth for all of us.”
Respect, toughness and men of action. It's essentially Luke Fickell's 'train, say your prayers, and eat your vitamins'. It all sounds great, but it still takes the players to buy in. The last two lines sound like they're straight out of the 'Winner's Manual', which is still a good thing in "my book".
The first question of the day was asked in order to once again get Fickell on the record about what he did or didn't know about any of the recent violations, or even any violations that are currently undiscovered.
“I can honestly say that I was not informed of any information until it became public knowledge.”
And so now people are free to try and prove him wrong, which is exactly what they will try to do.
The question was asked if the staff and athletic department had been too lax on compliance in the past. While Fickell didn't necessarily say yes, he did say that things were going to be increased, though I wasn't really fond of the initial steps talked about.
“Sometimes we're focused at the task at hand, but it still comes back to our education process. We're going to continue to educate, educate, educate our guys. We understand that we are going to deal with compliance. We're gonna go through this situation thoroughly and methodically, so that we can figure out what is best, and the best ways in which we can handle this stuff in the future. I know that we're going to step up some monitoring ideas, but for right now we just know that we're going to take it thoroughly and methodically so that we can make sure that we get this right.”
You can educate all you want, and players have already said they knew what was right and wrong. The key isn't education, it's ending the blind eyes. Yes, education helps to clear your compliance department, but it's the increased monitoring that will keep your compliance department from needing to be cleared in the first place. If you're not monitoring like you should, then that tells me you don't really want to know what's going on.
We've all heard rumblings and questions of whether or not Fickell will actually get a fair shot at this job moving beyond 2011, and there's no doubt that he's heard it as well, but according to him, it doesn't matter what type of shot he's getting. All that matters is getting the shot.
“I would take the shot in any way that I can possibly can. We all know here at Ohio State all eyes are on you each and every year. That doesn't worry me one bit."
That's pretty much the perfect answer. If Cormac McCarthy wrote a book about post-apocalyptic football on the Mexican border, that would probably be a line in the book.
When asked if he was going to leave the offense alone, he essentially said he wanted to be a presence for the players, but he wouldn't interject himself where he never has before. He'll spend some time there, but he won't be drawing up plays. Besides, he's got faith.
“I've got the utmost confidence in the offensive staff, and Coach Bollman as the offensive coordinator."
Despite last year's team being the highest scoring Ohio State football team of all time, I think some Buckeye fans were hoping that Fickell would take this opportunity to announce the replacements on the offensive staff. Remember people, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Unless it resigns.
With the recent departure of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Fickell was asked if it was actually better for the program if Pryor left. In his best Patches O'Houlihan, he dodged the question by answering something that wasn't asked.
“Each and every year we lose kids. Cameron Heyward, boy we'd love to have him back. Ross Homan, Brian Rolle. All of those kinds of guys. That's what we prepare for year in and year out.”
I should have asked, "Yeah, but would you love to have Terrelle Pryor back?" Alas, I was tweeting.
How about another compliance question. These are always great to answer.
“Our compliance office does an unbelievable job, and we continue and we are going to continue to educate our kids consistently. Can we get better? We're finding ways every day that we can get better, whether it's through monitoring or whether it's through more consistency. That's the trick to the whole thing.”
When I heard this, I thought to myself, 'If you're finding ways every day to get better, then how unbelievable can the compliance department be?'
Somebody from Cleveland then asked Fickell if Michigan was just another Big Ten game to him. Yeah, because somebody who played under John Cooper wouldn't really appreciate what a win over Michigan meant. Fickell's answer left no doubt, as if there was any.
“Our guys will know about November 26th, I promise you that.”
It's interesting, Brady Hoke won't say the 'State' in 'Ohio State'. Luke Fickell won't even say 'That School Up North', let alone 'Michigan'. Remember that Todd Snider song about the alternative band that was so alternative they didn't even sing or play instruments? "Silence, music's original alternative." That's Luke Fickell.
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