Moving from graduate assistant to interim head coach, Ohio State’s Luke Fickell finds himself as the latest example of where hard work and dedication can take a person. Now the question remains: what will be do with such an opportunity?
There’s no denying that Fickell has learned under the best. Jim Tressel’s accomplishments as a head coach at both Youngstown State and Ohio State are on a Hall of Fame trajectory, despite his mistakes at his tenure in Columbus, and Fickell was around for every single year of Tressel’s 10-year tenure — and then some. That’s a lot of learning alongside a tremendous teacher and the ability to coach elite level talent week-in and week-out.
But let’s not forget just how incredible this opportunity is for Fickell. At 38, Fickell is still incredibly young to coach at such a top school. Tressel cut his teeth for 15 years at Youngstown State and other coaches at major programs did the same — whether it was Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Mack Brown at Tulane or Brian Kelly at Central Michigan. Yet Fickell now stands with an incredible opportunity to stabilize a program surrounded by negative publicity and chaos. If he can right the ship, have a strong Big 10 season, win a couple of rivalry games and even get a decent bowl game, Fickell might just keep this job outright.
Fickell will also represent the Columbus faithful quite well. He was raised in Columbus and graduated from Ohio State in 1997 after playing nose guard for the football team. He became a graduate assistant in ‘99, and there began his rise through the ranks, becoming linebackers coach in 2004 and co-defensive coordinator in 2005. He’s held those positions ever since.
Fickell will know well the ins and outs of not only the expectations but the players and fellow coaches, and should provide as seamless of a transition as anyone in this time of trouble. It’s not the greatest situation to learn the ropes as head coach, and generally a coach like Fickell would have to accept a smaller head coaching role to prove himself as the overall leader. Fate has given him a chance at 38-years-old to establish his name at a top-flight program like OSU — a chance that precious few people get to enjoy. What he does with it is now up to him.