ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Luke Fickell is no stranger to Michigan Stadium.
He has been to the Big House 10 times in his career — eight as a member of Ohio State’s coaching staff and twice in his four-year playing career with the Buckeyes. Saturday, though, will be different.
Fickell returns to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines for the 21st time, but the first as Cincinnati’s head coach, when the Bearcats face No. 8 Michigan at noon ET.
Not too long ago, Fickell even came to Michigan as Ohio State’s head coach. Fickell replaced Jim Tressel in the spring of 2011, following an NCAA investigation into a tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal that resulted in player suspensions and Tressel’s resignation.
In Fickell’s only season at the helm of the Buckeyes, Michigan defeated Ohio State 40-34 on Nov. 26 in Ann Arbor. That was Michigan’s last win against Ohio State.
The week leading up to that game, reports began to swirl that Urban Meyer would be hired as Ohio State’s head coach after the season.
Following Ohio State’s loss to the Wolverines, a reporter asked Fickell if he would remain as head coach. He got emotional, almost to the point of tears. Then, he grew angry.
“Like I said, it’s about the Ohio State-Michigan (game),” Fickell said, as he rapped on the table in front of him. “It’s been about that since Sunday and it’s going to be about that always. And that’s the way it is.”
Fickell stayed on Meyer’s staff in 2012 and spent five more seasons as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator. In that stretch, Ohio State was 5-0 against the Wolverines.
Earlier this week, a reporter reminded Fickell that he’s faced Michigan 20 times.
“That’s good counting!” Fickell exclaimed to a reporter. “You went back and did some homework.”
Fickell is 14-6 against Michigan as a player or coach. In that stretch, he’s seen a change in Michigan’s culture, especially under third-year coach Jim Harbaugh.
Fickell also acknowledged his familiarity with Michigan.
“I don’t know that there’s any great schematics that I have because I’ve been there,” Fickell said during his weekly news conference in Cincinnati. “I have the lay of the land a little bit better. You understand what the atmosphere is like and how loud it’s going to be. All those things are probably an advantage. But the reality is, I’m probably not going to make a whole lot of plays on Saturday afternoon.
“If I have to make a tackle or a catch, it could be an issue,” Fickell said, laughing.
Michigan, Fickell said this week, is a measuring stick for his young Cincinnati program. Yet he was pressed to describe his own experiences in Michigan Stadium.
“The reality is, I know the environment, I know the atmosphere and I know what they’ve done more in the last three years, more than anything,” Fickell said. “I can at least lend a bit more insight into the atmosphere and studying and knowing these guys over the last few years, with Coach Harbaugh, I’ve got some different insight for them.
“But the reality is, I want it to be about us. I know people ask a lot of questions about my history with [Michigan], but I want to make sure our guys know this is about them.”
Luke Fickell vs. Michigan
As a player: 1-3*
* Fickell redshirted the 1992 season.
As a coach: 13-3
|1999||Ohio State||Graduate assistant||L|
|2002||Ohio State||Special teams coordinator||W|
|2003||Ohio State||Special teams coordinator||L|
|2005||Ohio State||Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2006||Ohio State||Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2007||Ohio State||Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2008||Ohio State||Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2009||Ohio State||Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2010||Ohio State||Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2011||Ohio State||Interim head coach||L|
|2012||Ohio State||Defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2013||Ohio State||Defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2014||Ohio State||Defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2015||Ohio State||Defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
|2016||Ohio State||Defensive coordinator/linebackers||W|
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