Bearcats’ Fickell on Notre Dame rumors: ‘There is no speculation’

CINCINNATI -- Luke Fickell is all about focus.

Anybody who didn’t know that was reminded by the University of Cincinnati football coach on Tuesday during the program’s weekly media session before the 12-0 Bearcats’ American Athletic Conference championship game against 11-1 Houston on Saturday on their home turf at Nippert Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m..

The fifth-year coach claimed to be virtually unaware of not only Brian Kelly leaving his job as Notre Dame’s football coach to take the job at Louisiana State, but also of the speculation that Fickell would be following the former Cincinnati coach’s footsteps and taking over as coach of the Fighting Irish.

“I don’t say I do a lot of things very good, but one thing I like to think I do pretty well is keep my head down and not get into all the other stuff,” he said. “I don’t look at my phone. I don’t read a whole bunch, so for me, I don’t think it’s as big a deal, but I know it’s not about me. It’s about the 18-22-year-olds. It’s about our whole program. We obviously are aware of all the different things on everybody’s plate, but we’ve got to have enough maturity. We’ve got to have enough respect for what it is we’ve all done – and especially what these seniors have done – to not allow it to be a distraction to anything we do.

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“I don’t know what there is to address,” he added. “Like I said, for a guy that keeps his head down and very rarely answers his phone or anything like that, I don’t talk to a whole of people, so there is nothing. That’s the crazy thing. It’s all whatever is being said and different things. There is no speculation. Is the job open? I guess it is, but I wouldn’t know if somebody didn’t tell me. It’s the same way I am with rankings. It’s the same way I am with a lot of things with exception to recruiting. I understand. Most importantly, all I care about is the guys that sit in these seats – to be honest with you – that they know what’s most important to all of us and make sure we’ve all got to find ways to make sure our minds are focused on the things we’ve got to do

“I’m not the only guy with things rolling around in their head. We’ve got plenty of guys that have opportunities to go to the NFL. We’ve got plenty of guys that have opportunities to make decisions about coming back. We’ve got seniors. There’s this Covid year hanging over everybody’s head, and they’ve got decisions to make. We’ve all got things, and what these guys have done a phenomenal job all year of is finding ways to not let that affect how we handle our business, and I mean that. Together, we haven’t always been perfect. We rely a lot on the trust, respect and love we have for one another.”

The Bearcats go into Saturday’s game 12-0 for the second time in program history and ranked third in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, leaving them eligible for the final post-season berth. Houston is ranked 16th by the AP and 21st in the CFP standings. College football’s Final Four is due to be announced on Sunday.

The AAC Championship Game appearance is Cincinnati’s third in a row. They are seeking their second consecutive title.

Fickell’s blinders-on approach has filtered down to his players, according to fifth-year senior quarterback Desmond Ridder.

“Oh yeah, Coach Fick does a great job of keeping the outside world and outside media, outside of this building and outside of this team,” Ridder said on Tuesday. “Once all of us step foot into (the Richard E. Lindner Center), it’s all about business, and it’s all about ball. Nothing really else matters. I think he does a great job of handling himself, and that kind of just filters down throughout the program, throughout the players and throughout the coaches. We’re just focused on the game on Saturday, and that’s all his attention is on, so that’s all our attention is on.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Houston at Cincinnati, 4 p.m., ABC, 700

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