Cincinnati has hired Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell as its head coach, turning to the Buckeye state native to re-establish a program that has slipped in recent years.
The school said Saturday in a release that Fickell has agreed to a six-year deal that is pending approval from the board of trustees. He was to be introduced at a news conference later Saturday.
Fickell, a former Ohio State defensive lineman from Columbus, has been a coach with the Buckeyes since 2002. He spent one season as head coach in 2011, taking over after Jim Tressel was fired during the offseason and going 6-7.
When Coach Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State in 2012, Fickell was retained and has been part of a staff that has won a national title and two Big Ten championships.
“It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati,” Fickell said in a statement.
“This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort.
“That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city and we will make you proud.”
Fickell replaces Tommy Tuberville, who stepped down after four seasons at Cincinnati. The Bearcats went 4-8 this past season and 29-22 under Tuberville.
Cincinnati had five double-digit victory seasons in a six-year span (2007-12) under former coaches Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.
Under Tuberville, Cincinnati won nine games in each of his first two seasons, but then slipped to just 11 total victories in the final two seasons.
“His extensive ties to the state of Ohio, experience at a championship-level program in Ohio State, ability to evaluate and develop talent, energy and leadership are all qualities which set him apart,” Cincinnati Athletic Director Mike Bohn said of Fickell.
The 43-year-old Fickell has shared the defensive coordinator role the last three years, first with Chris Ash and this season with Greg Schiano.
Since 2005, defenses coached by Fickell at Ohio State have ranked among the top 40 in the country in yards allowed per play every year, averaging a ranking of No. 17. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 3 in the nation this season.
Fickell’s one season as head coach came under difficult circumstances. Tressel was fired for lying to NCAA investigators and the school about violations involving players trading memorabilia and gear for tattoos and cash.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. continues to struggle with a hamstring injury and did not practice Friday as No. 24 Nebraska began preparations for the Music City Bowl against Tennessee on Dec. 30. Coach Mike Riley said he’s preparing fifth-year senior Ryker Fyfe as if he’ll be the starter with Zack Darlington his backup.