Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger discuss Wisconsin’s hiring of Luke Fickell, and talk about what he can bring to the Badgers from his time with Cincinnati.
PAT FORDE: Wisconsin's like, we don't necessarily want to stay the fifth best job. We want to try to become the fourth, third, or first, second or first best.
DAN WETZEL: To me, no hire more impressive than Wisconsin getting Luke Fickell to leave Cincinnati and come to Madison. There's legitimately nothing else you could probably want. This is probably the single best coach Wisconsin could have reasonably attracted. Luke Fickell-- incredible job at Cincinnati, previously was at Ohio State, played at Ohio State, got recruiting ties in Ohio.
I think he's going to upgrade their recruiting. I think they're going to get more athletic. I think they had nine draft picks he developed last year.
PAT FORDE: Nine draft picks at Cincinnati.
DAN WETZEL: Nine.
PAT FORDE: I mean--
DAN WETZEL: That is taking--
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
DAN WETZEL: --players and developing them. You look at Sauce Gardner, AFC Defensive Player of the Year-- Rookie of the Year, I mean. Kobe Bryant doing well. Like, he's got an eye for talent. He develops them. Just a great hire for Wisconsin. The real issue is, wow, does he want to go there?
And I think he just kind of got boxed out. Like last year, the timing was bad with the playoff. He couldn't go to Notre Dame. Ohio State has got Ryan Day. And he's a young guy, not on the verge of getting fired, no matter what the sports talk radio callers in Columbus say.
PAT FORDE: [LAUGHS]
DAN WETZEL: James Franklin has got a mega deal at Penn State. And if an old Buckeye could take the Michigan job, well, I mean, Harbaugh could be there for life. So I guess this is the next best one other than going South. Pat, thoughts on Fickell to Wisconsin for both Fickell and Wisconsin?
PAT FORDE: Absolute home run for Wisconsin. We'll see if it is for Fickell. I think it's-- I mean, I think it's a good move for Fickell too. He was ready to go, as you alluded to. The timing was not going to work last year. He was not, unlike Brian Kelly, going to walk out on a potential playoff team.
But he was ready. He was-- even though-- like, I think-- I feel like he thinks he did his job fully at Cincinnati. And he did, obviously, better than anybody could have expected. But if you look at the sum total of it, you stay with that group of players that was a very special group, a huge nucleus of seniors plus some very talented underclassmen, and you get them to the playoff, you go undefeated in the regular season two years in a row, you get Cincinnati into the Big 12, a game-changing conference affiliation, and, OK, my work here is done.
And I'm a Midwestern guy. Like, I think-- if Luke Fickell had gone to USC, I think he would do great. If he had gone to LSU, I think he would do great. But he is a Midwestern fit through and through. And so what are the best jobs there? And none of them are available. Wisconsin is that next one after Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, in whatever order.
It's the fifth best job. It can be a real good job. And to me, it signals that Wisconsin's like, we don't necessarily want to stay the fifth best job. We want to try to become the fourth, third, or first, second or first best. So it is a big move and a big win for Wisconsin.
ROSS DELLENGER: You know, I think a lot of people were waiting for or thinking that Luke was going to wait for three-- two or three jobs-- Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan. Notre Dame came open last year and, like Dan said, kind of the timing just wasn't right. Of all the times to-- for one of those three jobs to come open, if I had to guess, not like I've talked to him about it, but I'd guess that was a little disappointing, him not getting that job and the timing not working out there.
And he's probably going to be the best hire this cycle for any team, any program. I think people would make arguments for Rhule in Nebraska. People might make arguments for Freeze at Auburn. But I would say that getting Luke Fickell, who has turned down multiple interests and multiple jobs over the years, getting him to leave is the biggest splash of the cycle.