Ohio State’s Ryan Day is the reason that Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell decided to leave the Queen City and the Bearcats for the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison in the Dairy State.
The hits keep on coming for Ryan Day.
Luke Fickell is coming for his dream job as head coach of his hometown and alma mater team The Ohio State Buckeyes. This is why he returned to the Big Ten. It’s his home, it’s where he wants to be, and by being at Wisconsin he’s setting himself up to succeed Ryan Day.
After his first two seasons, it looked like Ryan Day would be in Columbus as the Buckeyes’ head coach as long as he wanted to be. Two disastrous losses to the team to the north later and he is all of a sudden on borrowed time. Thus it is time to strike while the iron is hot for Luke Fickell.
Luke Fickell is betting on himself in a big, big way. By taking the Wisconsin job, not only is he setting himself up to show immediately that he’s better than Ryan Day when the Buckeyes and Badgers collide in Madison, Wisconsin next fall, but to show that he’s the long term solution for Ohio State too. The Big Ten West is wide open and will stay that way for a while, even with the likes of Bret Bielema, Kirk Ferentz, P.J. Fleck, Matt Rhule, Jeff Brohm, the always dangerous Pat Fitzgerald, and soon Chip Kelly and Lincoln Riley being the guys he’ll have to face.
That is the point for Luke Fickell, to go toe-to-toe with guys in the conference and show that he can beat them. To beat the guys I mentioned and then fight the guys in the Big Ten East and beat them too, to show that he should be the Buckeye head coach. Because guess who is getting called if Luke Fickell can beat Ryan Day? Or better yet if Luke Fickell can beat Jim Harbaugh, when Ryan Day continues to struggle? He likely would have anyhow, but if he shows he can win in the Big Ten and beat that team up north, not only will he get that call but get the larger paycheck too.
Coach Fickell and Wisconsin probably openly have talked about that being the endgame for him. That he would go back to Ohio State given the opportunity. Both sides are just fine with that too. If things get better for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes than Fickell and the Badgers stay together and challenge them and the rest of the Big Ten. If Day falters, in the meantime you’ve had Fickell improving your already solid program and Ohio State will have to pay lots of money to your program to get get him to leave.
The Bottom Line
This does mean Ryan Day has to look over his shoulder even more, and that’s saying something. The pressure will only increase for him as his rivals and contemporaries rise. His debacles against the one team he must defeat have that door wide open. Whatever goes on in Columbus, Buckeyes like Fickell will have an eye on it.
I could be wrong. This is just my speculation and where and how I see things. Luke Fickell is a great coach who is on a warpath to the top, that much is certain. Where he will be when (and I do mean when not if) he gets there only time will tell. Whoever he is with will happily rise to the top with him.
Coach Fickell is saying all the right things that fans and a program want to hear; “This is a destination job at a program that I have admired from afar for years. 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.” I have no doubt that he will continue to be a great coach, will be dedicated to the Badgers and Wisconsin, and will put his heart and soul into it. But I also have no doubt that if Ohio State calls, Fickell would answer and go home. In the meantime the Wisconsin Badgers are getting a heck of a coach.