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  • Writer's pictureMichael Dakoske

Why Wisconsin Targeted Luke Fickell

Luke Fickell, head coach of the University of Cincinnati football program for six seasons, has officially left the program to be the next head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. Kerry Coombs, the Bearcats’ special teams coordinator, will take Fickell’s place as interim head coach as the Bearcats prepare for their bowl game. According to, Coombs was the defensive backs coach for UC from 2007-2011 and returned to UC in 2022 as special teams coordinator, so he is already familiar with the team.

Chris McIntosh, the Athletic Director for the Wisconsin Badgers announced Fickell’s transfer on Sunday, November 27th, two days after the Bearcats’ 27-24 loss to Tulane. This game was the deciding factor as to who would face the University of Central Florida in the American Athletic Conference Championship. Fickell led the Bearcats to the American Athletic Conference title game the past two years, so just after losing the chance to claim the title for the third year in a row, Fickell made the transfer.

In the middle of this year’s season, Paul Chryst, the former head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, was fired for not living up to the lengthy expectations the Badgers had for him this season. Chryst went 67-26 with the Badgers before he was fired. After Chryst was fired, the Badgers’ defensive coordinator, Jim Leonhard, took over as interim head coach of the Badgers, much like what Coombs will have to do for the Bearcats now. Leonhard was considered for the head coach position but Fickell ended up with it.

During his six seasons with the Bearcats, Fickell went 57-18. Not only that, but last year he led the 13-0 Bearcats to the College Football Playoff before losing to Alabama in the semifinals. Fickell took the program to new levels. So much so that the Bearcats will start the 2023 season in the Big 12, rather than the American Athletic Conference, which is where they have been since 2013. With this new, colossal personnel change, the Bearcats’ search for a new permanent coach is even more important as they prepare for the transition into the Big 12, which tends to have tougher competition as compared to the American Athletic Conference.

Although it is a loss for the Bearcats, both Fickell and the Badgers are excited about the future of the Wisconsin football program. According to, Fickell said, “I am in total alignment with Chris McIntosh's vision for this program. There is a tremendous foundation here that I can't wait to build upon. This world-class university, athletic department, and passionately loyal fan base all have a strong commitment to success and I can't wait to be a part of it.” From 2002-2016, Fickell coached for the Ohio State Buckeyes and as interim head coach in 2011, so the Big 10 will be a familiar conference for him as he coaches the Badgers. McIntosh is also very excited about Fickell’s transition into Wisconsin. According to, McIntosh said, “Luke is one of the top football coaches in the country. He is a proven winner, recruiter, and developer of players. Equally as important, he shares our values. Coach Fickell is focused on giving our student-athletes the best opportunities possible and is attuned to the changing landscape of college athletics.”

Wisconsin finishes off the regular season 6-6 with a lot of leadership instability. With Fickell, the Badgers found their stability going into the 2023 season.

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