Joe Podelco / Lantern photographer
Luke Fickell’s expected five-game coaching stint has become a full-season audition.
After NCAA violations and investigations prompted the resignation of 10-year Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel on Monday, Fickell has been named the interim head coach for the 2011–12 season.
Fickell, who played nose guard for OSU from 1992–96, was selected to coach for the first five games next season following Tressel’s suspension. He now will coach for the entire 12-game season.
“It will be difficult,” Fickell said in March, referring to coaching the first five games of the season. “We have to know whose team it is. It’s our team. It’s the seniors’ team.”
Despite the mixed emotions surrounding Tressel’s departure, OSU football historian Jack Park thinks fans will rally behind the new leader.
“I think everybody will get behind Luke Fickell,” Park said. “I’m sure this is not the way he wanted this at all.”
Whether or not he wanted them, Fickell has the coaching reins next season. The coach for the 2012 campaign is still uncertain, but the Columbus native has 2011 to prove he is the man for the job.
“It is an opportunity for him to earn the head-coaching job at Ohio State,” Park said. “He’s got a year. He doesn’t have to build a staff. … The staff is in place. They have been working together pretty well.”
Fickell likely will lean on his experienced assistants.
“We coach by committee,” Fickell said. “It never has been, never will be, about one person in particular.”
Fickell has done the majority of his coaching from the defensive side of the ball, serving as the co-defensive coordinator since 2005. It seems likely that Tressel’s defense-first approach to the game will remain intact. The offensive game plan is less certain.
“Something has to be done offensively. I don’t know if they bring in another coach now to basically run the offense,” Park said. “Jim Bollman has the title of offensive coordinator, but I think we all know that Jim Tressel was the offensive coordinator.”
Bollman has been the team’s offensive coordinator since 2001.
Fickell had the chance Monday to speak with players as interim head coach.
“He did an excellent job of talking about the things that are important,” Smith said in a video statement Monday. “This happens to be finals week, and (the players) obviously have to finish their classes. … Luke and this staff are committed to surrounding them with the support that they need to make sure they stay focused in that regard.”
On Dec. 23, 2010, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits from Eddie Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. Linebacker Jordan Whiting also received a one-game ban.
Though he has coached at OSU for nearly a decade, Fickell has no head-coaching experience. The sparse résumé makes coaching at OSU, where a BCS bowl game is a constant expectation, a tall order.
“I am humbled and excited about the opportunity,” Fickell said in March. “I’m truly proud to be able to stand up here and accept this role.”
When accepting the coaching reins for the games Tressel was suspended, Fickell emphasized the unimportance of the individual.
“This place is not about one person; this place is not about coach Tress. It’s not about whoever is going to be wearing the headset on a Saturday afternoon,” Fickell said. “It’s about Ohio State football.”