Fickell Staying Out of Penn State Circus
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Fickell had to know he would face at least one question about the ongoing saga at Penn State during his weekly press conference.
When it came, Ohio State’s coach was ready, and unwilling to dive under the surface of a scandal that looks to be as convoluted as it is egregious.
Photo by Dan Harker
“No, I don't pass judgment on anything,” Fickell said during his Tuesday press luncheon.
“I haven't followed it. I really don't have any comment on it.”
Fickell was smart to sidestep the landmine going on in Happy Valley, especially considering everything his own program has been through over the last 11 months. It is possible that two of the most successful and beloved coaches in Big Ten history could be unceremoniously removed within a short six-month span.
Ohio State’s press conference began only moments after Penn State announced that Joe Paterno would not hold his weekly presser in State College. They also announced that Paterno would not appear on the Big Ten conference call, which all 12 of the conference’s coaches appear on each and every week.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Penn State was in the midst of planning Paterno’s exit after 46 seasons as the head coach.
“The board of trustees has yet to determine the precise timing of Paterno’s exit, but it is clear that the man who has more victories than any other coach at college football’s top level and who made Penn State a prestigious national brand will not survive to coach another season.”
That obviously has nothing to do with Fickell, who is still waiting to hear about his own future as a head coach in the Big Ten, and he wasn’t going to comment much further on the Paterno situation.
“I don't know. I'm not going to comment a lot on the Penn State stuff. Obviously, he has an unbelievable career,” Fickell said of the 84-year old Paterno.
“I haven't read about it. It's probably speculation. It would be nothing more than a speculation if I said anything. Great program, great man, and I'll just leave it at that.”
Still Defense First
Fickell doesn’t often admit to tuning in to other big time matchups in college football, but the longtime defensive assistant couldn’t help but flick on the television Saturday night to catch a glimpse of the nation’s top two defenses going at it in Tuscaloosa.
“Heck of a football game,” he said Tuesday.
“Hard-hitting. You pay (for) it later.”
Fickell enjoyed watching LSU and Alabama battle back and forth in a 9-6 defensive struggle, but that doesn’t mean he has anything against scoring points; despite what Ohio State’s offense might look like sometimes on Saturday.
“Hey, I like good football,” he said.
“Everybody is a little bit different. You got to do what you do. Some people are built for that. Some people, that's what their system is, they got to be able to adapt to it.”
The Buckeyes are 80th in the country in scoring offense and 106th in total offense. They have especially struggled to throw the ball, ranking ahead of only Navy and Army in passing offense this season.
But Fickell isn’t going to have his team start winging the ball around just to make a point.
“I think it's all part of football,” he said.
“Do I like it? I love great defense. Yeah, I love to see points scored. But I think some of those situations you do put your defense in a tough situation if you're throwing the ball 65 times and you're going to turn it over three or four (times).”
That has always been the cardinal sin for Ohio State quarterbacks.
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