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Luke Fickell leaves Cincinnati to take over at Wisconsin

Wisconsin officially named Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell as its next head football coach on Sunday evening.

Late last week, it looked as if interim coach Jim Leonhard would be named the permanent coach. But reports emerged early Sunday that Fickell was Wisconsin’s choice and that the two sides were working to finalize a contract.

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Fickell led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff following the 2021 season, and the program won back-to-back American Athletic Conference titles in 2020 and ’21. He is a three-time conference coach of the year.

“My family and I are thrilled to join the Wisconsin family,” Fickell said in a statement. “This is a destination job at a program that I have admired from afar for years. I am in total alignment with (athletic director) Chris McIntosh’s vision for this program. There is a tremendous foundation here that I can’t wait to build upon. This world-class university, athletic department and passionately loyal fan base all have a strong commitment to success and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Fickell, 49, coached one season in the Big Ten, serving as interim coach at Ohio State in 2011 after the firing of Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes, his alma mater, were 6-7.

Hired at Cincinnati in 2017, Fickell has a 57-18 record with the Bearcats. With a 9-3 record this season, Cincinnati is headed to a fifth straight bowl game.

ESPN reported that Kerry Coombs will take over as interim coach in Cincinnati. Coombs, 61, coached at high schools in his native Ohio from 1983-2007 before becoming defensive backs coach at Cincinnati. He later coached at Ohio State and with the Tennessee Titans before returning to the Bearcats program as cornerbacks/special teams coach this season.

Cincinnati will begin a national search for Fickell’s replacement, per the report.

At Wisconsin, Leonhard had served as interim coach since Paul Chryst’s firing on Oct. 2. He guided the Badgers to a 4-3 mark after a 2-3 start under Chryst, who was 67-26 in eight seasons as head coach.

Wisconsin (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten) is bowl eligible. The regular season ended Saturday with a disappointing 23-16 home loss to Minnesota.

“I hope I’m given the opportunity to push this program forward in all areas here in the near future,” Leonhard told reporters Saturday after the game. “Big task, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Fickell had turned down chances to be considered by other schools in the past, deciding instead to stay at Cincinnati because of a preference for the Midwest.

Fickell is the second big-name coach to join a Big Ten program in the past two days. Nebraska announced the hiring of former Baylor and Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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