Number One: Wisconsin Head Coach Luke Fickell
Doesn’t it feel like Luke Fickell has unfinished business at Ohio State? That 2011 season was a trainwreck of a year, but it wasn’t because of Fickell. The former Buckeye player turned coach was asked to do the impossible after the dismissal of Jim Tressel.
Ohio State’s top players were suspended, coaches had left, and the program felt like it was in turmoil. No one blames Fickell for what happened in 2011, and neither did Urban Meyer, who retained Fickell as defensive coordinator when he arrived in 2012. And who could blame Gene Smith for hiring Meyer? He was the biggest name available in the coaching ranks in years.
Fickell went on to help Meyers win a National Championship in 2014 before deciding to get some head coaching experience himself, down I-71 in Cincinnati beginning in 2017. One of the main reasons he did so was because he was told he needed head coaching experience if he was going to one day replace Meyer. Cincinnati felt like the right move. It was close to his home in Columbus and the Bearcats weren’t really a threat to Ohio State on the national stage or for the top recruits in the state of Ohio.
All that goodwill changed however the day Meyer stepped down and Ryan Day was named the new head coach at Ohio State. Without ever even receiving a phone call let alone an opportunity to interview for the job, Fickell was snubbed by athletic director Gene Smith for his dream job. Now the Columbus, Ohio native is the head coach of a rival Big 10 school at Wisconsin.
No one had to really fear or worry about Fickell while down in Cincinnati, but being the head man in Madison, Wisconsin is a different story. It very much feels like Fickell could be a scorned Buckeye who is out for blood. This season’s trip to Madison for this year’s Buckeye’s could be a death trap on the schedule. With six road games for the first time since the 1800s and with three of them against preseason-ranked opponents, the last thing Day and the Buckeyes needed was a ticked-off Fickell in his new house.
Would Fickell leave Madison for Columbus, Ohio if called upon? It’s hard for me to believe he would do so after just one season, especially after not receiving even an opportunity to interview for the job the first time. Fickell is the best college coach on this list currently.
He coached in Columbus in 2011 and knows what it’s like in the big city. He built a mid-major program up to the highest of highs taking them all the way to the college football playoffs, and now he is a power five head coach. If and when there is a head coaching vacancy in Columbus, Ohio, you can rest assured Fickell will be on the top of that list of possible replacements.