Sources: Wisconsin finalizing deal to hire Luke Fickell
Wisconsin is finalizing a deal to make Luke Fickell the school's next football coach, sources told ESPN.
While there a few steps remaining -- including a regents meeting Sunday afternoon that's been formally announced -- a deal is expected to be formalized to make Fickell the next Badgers coach within the next 24 hours.
Fickell has informed his Cincinnati Bearcats team that he is leaving for the Wisconsin job, sources told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. Special teams coach Kerry Coombs will serve as the Bearcats' interim coach, sources told ESPN.
Sources told ESPN that all the candidates for the Wisconsin position, including interim coach Jim Leonhard, have been informed that they're not getting the job. That sets the stage for one of the most eye-opening moves of the college football carousel, Wisconsin luring the country's top Group of 5 coach who brings vast experience in the Big Ten's Midwestern footprint.
Fickell led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff last season and has gone 57-18 in his six years there. Fickell's 2021 Bearcats team went 13-0 before losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff, becoming the first Group of 5 team to reach the CFP.
Fickell has strong roots in the Big Ten, as he was a longtime assistant coach and coordinator at Ohio State and played there collegiately. He'd been picky about jobs over the years as Cincinnati rose to the top of the Group of 5, being selective about the Midwestern footprint.
Fickell would replace Paul Chryst, who was fired in the middle of the season after going 67-26 in eight seasons there. He'd been replaced by Jim Leonhard, who had been the defensive coordinator and was considered a candidate for the head-coaching job.
Fickell's attraction to the Badgers' brass, along with his record and roots in the league, is his ability to build a program. Fickell turned Cincinnati into one of the country's best development programs, taking modest recruits and consistently churning out strong teams.
Fickell spent one season as an interim coach in the Big Ten, going 6-7 in 2011 in the wake of the firing of Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He stayed patient from there, working as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and winning a national championship in the 2014 season.