Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell emphatically quiets chatter linking him to USC vacancy
University of Cincinnati head football coach Luke Fickell said he isn't taking any calls about the vacancy at the University of Southern California or any other job openings.
After USC on Monday fired its football coach, Clay Helton, two days after the Trojans' 42-28 home defeat to Stanford, reports linking Fickell to the job began to surface.
FIckell on Tuesday emphatically shooed away the USC noise, saying he knows nothing about the job and has no interest in taking any phone calls from Trojans Director of Athletics Mike Bohn.
"Look, I don't talk to anybody. I barely talk to my own family during the season," said Fickell during his weekly media availability session. "So I wouldn't ever talk about it, nor would I even answer a phone call or anything like that. I know nothing, nor does it make me have any interest. It's not a big deal. It's nothing but distractions if people allow it to be, and for us, it can't be."
Fickell addressed the reports four days before he and the No. 8-ranked (Associated Press/Coaches) Bearcats (2-0) face unranked Indiana (1-1) on Saturday in their first road test of the season (noon on ESPN).
"But I also want to say that this is the greatest thing that can happen for us because it is a reflection on what these guys have done on the football field," Fickell said. "... It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with what Desmond Ridder and Myjai Sanders and Ahmad Gardner and those guys have done to put our program in the light. I hope that there are a lot of those calls and things like that at the end of the year, because at the end of the year, if you're playing really good ball, those things are going to happen.
"We pride ourselves on people calling at the end of the year, whether it's for me or your coordinators or those juniors that they want to come out for the draft because they're playing really, really good football. It's a compliment to all if somebody is bringing anything like that up."
Fickell, who is 37-14 in five seasons at Cincinnati, was hired at UC in December 2016 by Bohn. Bohn served as UC's athletic director beginning in 2014 and until leaving for USC in November 2019.
Fickell has proven to be the greatest hire of Bohn's career, growing the Bearcats into one of the premier programs in the country and guiding the team to a top-10 national ranking in last season's final College Football Playoff rankings and in both this season's Associated Press op 25 poll and USA TODAY Sports AFCA coaches poll.
Fickell and his team's success also helped pave the way for UC to be able to receive and accept an invitation to the Big 12 Conference on Friday.
UC, which has been a member of the American Athletic Conference since 2013, will join the Big 12 by no later than July 1, 2024.
Fickell and the UC football team won their first AAC championship in program history last season.
Fickell signed a contract extension last year that keeps him at Cincinnati through 2026. The extension pays Fickell $3.4 million a year, making the 48-year-old coach the second-highest paid college football coach in the Group of Five. Houston's Dana Holgorsen ($3.7 million) is the highest paid.
Fickell and several of his assistants have been the targets of several schools over the past few seasons. Most notably, Fickell's former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman accepted the same position at Notre Dame in January. Fickell turned down an offer from Michigan State in February 2020.
"I don't normally listen until even January when you start to read some things," Fickell said. "But this is a crazy world, a crazy business. I think it does nothing more than show a lot of us that stability is great in this business. When you can create some stability and the things that are around you, the grass is not always greener. If you are going to spend any time thinking about it, it does make you realize what great fortunes you have to be building something and have some stability, not just for you as a person and you as a family guy, but you as a program and the kids in your program."
Fickell and his wife, Amy, have six children. Their oldest, Landon, is a freshman offensive lineman at Cincinnati.