Luke Fickell explains why he turned down Michigan State to stay at Cincinnati

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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During a visit to Dayton this week, Cincinnati Bearcats coach Luke Fickell talks about the successes and challenges so far.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

In a video released by the school Monday afternoon, Luke Fickell revealed his reasoning for spurning Michigan State to remain head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats football team.

“Family. And the relationships you’ve built,” he said. “I know at some point in time things always come to an end, whether they get rid of ya, kids leave, there are all kinds of things but the bottom line is first and foremost family.”

>>FLASHBACK: Why Fickell and the Bearcats look like a good match

Aside from a brief pursuit of a career in the NFL, the 46-year-old Fickell is a lifelong Ohioan.

He grew up in Columbus, starred at DeSales High School and played at Ohio State. He spent two seasons as an assistant at Akron before returning to his alma mater and spending 16 seasons as an assistant.

“Obviously my family loves it here. I’ve got a unique situation with the age of my kids but also the relationships we’ve built. To have this class coming in that is very, very special and to have that first class you recruited being those guys at the very end of their college career going into it it was a unique time for the family.

He and his wife, Amy, have six children. The oldest, Landon, was a junior on the Cincinnati Moeller football team last fall while the youngest are a set of twins who turn will turn six later this year.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Michigan State unsuccessfully tried to woo the Cincinnati coach to the Big Ten

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“All in all, we had to take a step back and make a selfish decision. That’s what I’ll end up telling the guys. I apologize, I had to make a selfish decision but this selfish decision was what was right for my family and that is to be here with you guys to continue to do what it is we’ve done.”

He said he was largely able to avoid the speculation that lit up media channels over the weekend.

“The last 48 hours just trying to make a decision of what is best for everybody,” he said. “Some of things are pulling at you for the wrong reasons, but I think what I love about it is it shows the excitement we’ve got in the program. It shows the excitement we’ve got in the community and when they’re mad -- I hope they’re mad, too. ‘Why’d you put us through this?’ That means they care. That means they’re watching. That means if anything we’re gonna make this better for the guys on our team, the program and everything for our future.”


Luke Fickell is staying in Southwest Ohio.

A University of Cincinnati spokesperson confirmed the former Ohio State player and assistant coach will remain head coach of the Bearcats after interviewing for the open position at Michigan State.

Shortly after reports from the Detroit News and Yahoo Sports! that the Columbus native had turned down the Spartans, Fickell tweeted what seemed to be a confirmation himself.

“Looking forward to more of this in 2020!” Fickell wrote along with a video of himself celebrating with players in the UC locker room. “Who’s with us?!”

Fickell is 32-20 in three seasons as the coach of the Bearcats, including back-to-back 11-win campaigns capped by bowl victories.

Michigan State has been searching for a coach since Mark Dantonio, a Fickell mentor who worked with him at Ohio State and was head coach at UC before taking over the Spartans in 2007, abruptly retired early last week.

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Dantonio is MSU’s all-time winningest coach (114-57), but the program has backslid since making the College Football Playoff in 2015.

His retirement announcement came the same day accusations he committed multiple NCAA violations came to light via documents filed in a lawsuit former MSU assistant Curtis Blackwell filed against Dantonio.

Fickell took over a program on the decline under Tommy Tuberville, who was unable to maintain the success of predecessors Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.

Among Fickell’s first acts was to emphasize local recruiting, something Tuberville was not known for, and he has seen great success in keeping talented players home.

Hired in December 2016, Fickell’s four recruiting classes have included 38 Ohioans and 12 players from the Dayton/Middletown/Springfield area.

Trotwood-Madison defensive back Sammie Anderson, Xenia offensive lineman Gavin Gerhardt and Lakota West linebacker Daved Jones are the latest from the area to sign with Fickell, joining Justin Harris of Wayne, Jonathan Allen and Tavion Thomas of Dunbar, Meechie Harris of Xenia, Malik Vann of Fairfield, Leonard Taylor of Springfield, Ryan Montgomery of Franklin, Cody Lamb of Miamisburg and Cole Smith of Middletown.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Luke Fickell is credited with uncovering gems such as Darron Lee and Pat Elflein as an Ohio State assistant. He will look for similar success at Cincinnati.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Fickell’s four classes have an average national rating of 57.3 in 247Sports Composite, 10 spots better than the four classes signed from 2013-16.

His most recent class is his highest-rated yet, coming in 40th nationally.

It is headlined by a pair of four-stars from the Queen City: Wyoming quarterback Evan Prater and Princeton linebacker Jaheim Thomas.

Jadon Thompson, a receiver from Naperville (Ill.) Central, gave Fickell three four-stars in this class while Dantonio secured none for the Spartans.

Dantonio has also fortified the roster by adding several transfers, including receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith of Wayne High School and Ohio State, safety Kyriq McDonald from Alabama and offensive lineman James Hudson from Michigan.

Dantonio, a Zanesville native who came to prominence as the defensive coordinator for Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team, also made recruiting Ohio a priority for the Spartans.

That and a defense-first approach helped him take advantage of rival Michigan’s stumbles and win three Big Ten titles during his 13 seasons in East Lansing.

MSU was at times a thorn in the side of Ohio State during Urban Meyer’s tenure, upsetting the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game in 2013 and keeping them out of the conference title game and the College Football Playoff with an upset win in Columbus in 2015.

Dantonio was 18-17 in three seasons as coach at Cincinnati before being hired by MSU.

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