Wisconsin Will Reportedly Hire Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell As Their Next Head Coach

When Wisconsin fired Paul Chryst and elevated defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard into the interim head coaching role, the expectation was that Leonhard, a highly regarded young coach, would have the interim title removed at the end of the year and become the full-time coach.

However, after closing the season 4-3 under Leonhard, the Badgers turned their attention to a much bigger and more established name in the college coaching ranks. On Sunday, word broke from ESPN’s Pete Thamel that the team was targeting Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, making an overture to the former Ohio State assistant and the head coach of one of the most successful non-Power Five teams in the last decade-plus.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much interest Fickell would have in the Wisconsin job and whether he’d leave Cincinnati for Madison, but it quickly became a very real proposition after Adam Rittenberg found that the Wisconsin Board of Regents had scheduled a Sunday afternoon meeting to approve a new contract for a football coach, with Tom Oates reporting the expectation was that a deal would get done by the end of the day.

It’s a big-time hire from Wisconsin, and a departure from how they’ve often kept things in the Badger family of sorts. Fickell doesn’t have a direct tie to Wisconsin but has had a tremendous amount of success in the midwest, has recruited well to Cincinnati, and proved he can build a terrific program with what he’s done with the Bearcats, where he has gone 57-18 and became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff a year ago.

What makes the Fickell hire so interesting is it was long assumed he would hold out for the Ohio State or Notre Dame job to come open, but now he heads to a Big Ten job that’s not in Columbus while the Buckeye faithful are currently melting down over whether Ryan Day is “the guy” following a second-straight loss to Michigan, this time in a blowout at home that allowed the Wolverines to literally plant their flag at midfield in the Horseshoe.