Could Fickell Be Lured Away by Kent State?
By Tony Gerdeman
With college football's hot stove league officially under way for its coaches, there are a number of assistants who are going to have some decisions to make. One of them will likely be Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
Luke Fickell is crowded by reporters after OSU's win vs. Michigan
Photo by Dan Harker
A year ago Fickell had talks with Pittsburgh about their head coaching vacancy, and was also linked to the open job at Akron. Ultimately, however, Pitt went with Paul Chryst and the Akron job didn't warrant enough interest.
Now, with Kent State coach Darrell Hazell taking the Purdue job, people are wondering if Fickell might be in play to fill the Flashes' vacancy.
Maybe if things had remained rocky this season for the Ohio State defense, the Kent State gig might look a whole lot better in Fickell's eyes, especially with the way his performance was being questioned in September.
Things eventually calmed down on the defensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes, however, and so did the criticism. Fickell ended up learning more about his team as the season went on, and admits that he is a better coach now than he was a season ago.
"It's been a growing period," he said following the Michigan game.
"It's been a really growing, humbling experience. I don't know that I'd be the same person if I didn't go through it, whether it was last year or this year. But it's still coaching, and it's amazing to say that you think you're teaching these young guys a lot of things, but in reality, they're really teaching you a lot of things.
"I think that's probably the one thing I can really say is I've learned as much from these young men this year as I think I have in any year I've been around. How they've handled change, adversity, and some different things. It's been a great growing experience."
Does that growing experience and the success found therein now make him consider a job like Kent State, which wouldn't have interested him a year ago? It's doubtful.
For one, he'd probably have to take a 50% pay cut from the $750,000 he is making now, to the $300,000-$400,000 that Kent State would offer. Meaning he could make as much next year as Ohio State's defensive coordinator as he would in two years as Kent State's head coach.
And there will be no national championship hunt at Kent State.
It took Darrell Hazell two years as Kent State's head coach to land the Purdue job. As the defensive coordinator of Urban Meyer's football program, Fickell should be able to walk into a job at the level of Purdue on day one.
There's no question that Fickell wants to be a head coach. He told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last year that it was a dream of his. However, the dream he is living right now is pretty special as well.
"This is a special place to be," Fickell said of Ohio State.
"We've always said that if you've got a happy wife, happy life. You got a happy family, you got a happy life. You're at a great place. It's hard to leave here. At some point in time, sure there's something that you've got to do, but this is such a special place that you couldn't leave unless it was exactly what you wanted or something that you had to go and do."
That doesn't necessarily scream "Kent State", does it?
Fickell could have left after last season, but he saw being part of Meyer's staff as a great opportunity.
Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer
celebrate OSU's win over Nebraska
Photo by Jim Davidson
"I knew it was going to be a great learning experience, not just from Coach Meyer, but from all of the different coaches that we've got on the staff," he said. "So selfishly speaking it was a great learning experience for me as well."
Just think how much more he can learn with another year under his belt, and how much more other universities can learn about him. This is a terrific stage for Fickell, and he can make even more of that stage next season.
Perhaps if there was friction between Meyer and Fickell, that would be one thing, but Meyer has already stated that he isn't going to make any changes to his staff, so obviously he is comfortable with Fickell.
"It's been good, really," Fickell said of his relationship with Meyer.
"You really find out when times are tough. Through the offseason and recruiting, and everything, I got to know him a lot better. But then when you get into the season and you get into the grind and you get into emotional situations and things, you get to know people a lot better.
"Everybody's got mutual respect for one another, but you learn a lot about each other. They say winning brings out the best in everybody, but we went through enough tough times that we learned a lot about eachother."
One of the things that Fickell certainly learned was that 2012 was just the beginning. Leaving now for anything other than his ideal job would be a surprising move.
For as long as Fickell has stuck by Ohio State, doing so for another year or two will likely pay off very well for all involved.
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