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Luke Fickell explains why he decided to stay at UC

Posted: 10:27 AM, Feb 10, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-11 00:24:56-05
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CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bearcats football coach Luke Fickell used one word to explain why he decided to stay put after interviewing for a job with Michigan State.

“Family," Fickell said in a video released by UC. "And the relationships that you’ve built, and I know this, at some point in time, things always come to an end … but the bottom line is, first and foremost, family.

"Obviously, my family loves it here.”

h/t: @GoBearcatsFB pic.twitter.com/kl5djOYAXB

— Reggie Wilson (@ReggieWilsonTV) February 10, 2020

Fickell also cited the top-40 freshman class coming in this year, featuring Ohio Mr. Football quarterback Evan Prater of Wyoming High School among three four-star recruits. Michigan State, it should be noted, doesn't have any four-star recruits.

The 2020 season also marks the end of the line for some in Fickell's first recruiting class.

"To have this class coming that's very, very, very special, and to have that first class that you recruited at the very end of their college career, it's a unique time," Fickell said.

Fickell said he would apologize to his players for the anxious weekend he put them through.

"All in all, we have to step back and make a selfish decision and that's what I'll end up telling the guys. 'Guys, I apologize,'" he said. "I had to make a selfish decision, but this selfish decision was what was right for my family -- and that is to be here, to be with you guys, and continue to do what it is we've done."

READ about Fickell's devotion to his family.

UC fans also spent a nervous weekend after Michigan State officials came to Cincinnati to interview Fickell. It looked as if UC was going to be a steppingstone again - as when Mark Dantonio left for Michigan State in 2006, Brian Kelly went to Notre Dame after the undefeated 2009 regular season, and Butch Jones went to Tennessee in 2012.

But fans were relieved when Fickell kept his word and tweeted Monday morning that he was staying.

Who’s with us?! 🎟: https://t.co/phJIRJVZQx#Bearcats | #TEAMpic.twitter.com/B2CipamiMH

— Luke Fickell (@CoachFick) February 10, 2020

Fickell, 46, decided to stay after having conversations with new UC Athletic Director John Cunningham on Monday morning, the Detroit Free Press reported. It wasn't immediately clear whether Cunningham offered to rework Fickell's contract or if Fickell ever received an offer from Michigan State.

According to reports, Michigan State was prepared to more than double Fickell's salary with a five-year deal between $25 million and $30 million - an average of between $5 million and $6 million per year. Fickell's contract at UC, signed in 2017, calls for him to make $2.4 million annual base salary for the next three seasons. Dantonio made $4.4 million at MSU last season.

Fickell's $2.3 million base pay in 2019 ranked him 63rd among 122 coaches whose pay was disclosed in a USA Today survey.

Fickell was immediately seen as the front-runner to replace Dantonio upon Dantonio's abrupt retirement on Feb. 4, sources told the Free Press.

RELATED: Fickell and his wife were concerned about campus culture at MSU, Free Press reports.

Fickell is regarded as one of the top up-and-comers in college football after leading the Bearcats to back-to-back 11-win seasons and bowl victories over Power 5 opponents Virginia Tech and Boston College in the past two years, not to mention consecutive attention-grabbing wins over UCLA. His three-year record at UC is 26-13.

Fickell worked with Dantonio at Ohio State and was part of the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship coaching staff as the special teams assistant, with Dantonio as defensive coordinator.

Dantonio was head coach at UC from 2004 to 2006 before taking the Michigan State job.