What a 24 hours it’s been for the Wisconsin Badgers. Most, including me, thought Jim Leonhard was a shoe-in for the head coaching job. Instead, Chris Macintosh has hired Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. It was a shocking move, but a move I think will pay off. Here are my three initial thoughts.
I Thought Jim Leonhard Did Enough To Get This Job
Under Jim Leonhard, the Badgers went 4-3. They did lose two of their three trophy games and only averaged 16 points a game in November. We began to see what the offense used to do earlier in the year under Paul Chryst, which got him fired. The Badgers did not end the way we expected them to, probably leading to the Luke Fickell hiring.
However, Graham Mertz is not Jim Leonhard’s quarterback. This offense was not Jim Leonhard’s offense. The offensive staff was not his staff. On the offensive side of the ball, his hands were cuffed, and could only do what his hand was dealt.
The Wisconsin Badgers also went through a tough stretch with the loss of former Badger Devin Chandler. That is very tough for a coach, and I thought his leadership was outstanding. I feel terrible for Jim Leonhard. I thought he earned this job.
Luke Fickell Fits This Program Perfectly
Wisconsin believes in developing players over the course of their careers. It’s a reason why not many players in this program play as true freshmen. No coach has done a better job developing players than Luke Fickell.
Fickell had a 57-18 record in his six years at Cincinnati. Only Alabama and Georgia have more wins over the last three seasons than Cincinnati did. I didn’t consider Luke Fickell a potential option. However, he fits this job perfectly. He also has won two national championships while on Ohio State’s coaching staff and led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff last season, the first-ever non-power five coach to do so.
Get Ready For New Faces Along with Luke Fickell
Over the course of the last few weeks, there have been 2023 recruits de-committing from the Wisconsin Badgers. It’s only gotten worse over the last 24 hours. Recently today, UW has posted five coaching positions. It’s become highly likely those coaches on the Badgers staff will not be returning. Expect Fickell to bring over a number of his coaches and even some of his 2023 recruits.
I understand some Wisconsin fans are not happy with this. I think this is a great hire, but I don’t like the way Athletic Director Chris Macintosh handled this situation with Jim Leonhard. After Paul Chryst’s firing, the program convinced us that Jim Leonhard had a very good chance at getting the job and those in the program were rooting for him. I believe a 4-3 record was pretty good for the dealt hand.
At the end of the day, Wisconsin gets a coach in Luke Fickell with a great resume and championship experience. He has coached on the biggest stage and has developed players into NFL talent. Last season, the NFL drafted nine of Fickell’s players, including Sauce Gardner who went fourth overall. I understand those upset and I can’t say I’m not a little upset about it either. However, the Badgers made a home-run hire. I can’t wait to see what the Luke Fickell era looks like.
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