Cincinnati gives Ohio State's Luke Fickell long-awaited head coaching shot


Update: Luke Fickell will remain with Ohio State through its College Football Playoff run, according to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.

Original story

Sometimes these hirings just make sense.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and Cincinnati native Luke Fickell has been hired as the Bearcats' new coach, elevating a career that almost ground to a halt.

It was five years ago this month Fickell had completed a tumultuous year as Ohio State's interim coach. Jim Tressel left the program in a lurch -- and perhaps forever damaged his integrity -- by lying to the NCAA in what now seems a petty Tattoogate scandal.

But the cover-up is always worse than the crime. After Tressel was fired in May 2011, Fickell was named interim coach. At that point, he was a 38-year-old Ohio State lifer as an assistant.

He was a solid, not necessarily outgoing, coach guided the Buckeyes through a rocky 6-7 season. The team that Tressel had built into a powerhouse lost to Purdue on Nov. 12, starting a four-game losing streak to end the season.

The Buckeyes went 1-3 against ranked teams that year, including a loss to Michigan.

Fickell had done the loyal and noble thing taking over the program through a time of tumult, but the result could have hurt his long-term prospects.

Over the weekend, it was valuable head coaching experience that helped him get his first job running a program.

When Urban Meyer took over on Nov. 28 of that year, all he would say is that Fickell would get an interview. It turns out Fickell nailed the interview and kept his job as an assistant.

Since then, he has either shared the defensive coordinator's job or held it outright. The Buckeyes have gone 61-5 since 2012. In that span, eight Buckeyes defenders have been drafted in the first four rounds.

All of it had to attract Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn to Fickell. The Bearcats have proven they can play at the highest level. Brian Kelly took them to consecutive BCS bowls in 2008 and 2009 before departing for Notre Dame.

Since then, Cincinnati is 52-36 under Butch Jones and Tommy Tuberville. The program has won at least nine games six times since 2008. That's the same number of nine-win seasons as LSU in that span.

The program sunk to a low in 2016, finishing 4-8 before Tuberville resigned.

Fickell knows the region having coached at Ohio State since 2002. He played defensive line for John Cooper in the mid-1990s.

Fickell's defense has finished in the top 20 nationally each of the last three years.

He is Bohn's first head-coaching football hire since luring Mike MacIntyre to Colorado from San Jose State in 2013.

McIntyre earned several national coach of the year awards this season.

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman first reported the Fickell agreement.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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