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Urban Meyer Made the Right Call in Retaining Fickell

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Loyalty and humility are fleeting personality traits these days. More and more, people operate in their an egocentric universe with their own self-interest first, second, and third; everyone else? Inconsequential. It’s a sad reality that we’re living in, but unless Tebowmania fully engrains itself in society and people alter their “universe revolves around me” mindset, it certainly won’t get any better.

That’s why when people like interim Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell are given the opportunity to stay at their dream organization it helps to give hope that change could actually happen. Am I being overdramatic? Probably a bit, but there is a something to be said about loyalty and humility and surrounding yourself with those that possess these traits greatly enhance your own life. Obviously incoming head coach Urban Meyer felt the same way as he made a point during his introductory press conference to state that Fickell would remain on the Ohio State coaching staff. Without question Meyer’s first call of many is right on the money.

Urban Meyer is the absolutely perfect hire for The Ohio State University and to borrow a quote from my buddy Bob “the most fantastic hire in college football since Saban took over Alabama and flipped their status back to relevant”.  Meyer is not only Buckeye born and Buckeye bred, but he is exactly what is needed to put the shine back on to a tarnished year. He’s a rock star, but not in the literal sense. His commitment to his faith, his family, and greatness, in that order, is exactly the type of person that you want your kids to emulate. Add to that the fact that he’s a master strategist, genius X’s & O’s coach, one of the best recruiters in the nation, and truly understands what it means to be a Buckeye, and Ohio State is set for title run after title run for as long as he maintains an office along the Olentangy.

Back to Fickell; did he have his issues as the boss this year? Unquestionably, and I bet he would be the first to admit that fact. However, he attacked a difficult situation the only way that he knows how… all-out. Most people don’t know this about Fickell, but he was thought by many to be an obvious future Olympic gold medal winner. Ohio is a high school wrestling hotbed, and to say he is in the conversation of best ever from the state isn’t overstating his dominance. In fact, many who follow the sport say he was as good of a high school wrestler that ever took the mat. Without getting too deep into his accolades he was unbeaten as a three-time state champion and dismantled nearly everyone he wrestled despite a massive weight disadvantage. He wrestled at 285 despite weighing only 235 and still pinned 95% of his opponents.

So what happened? Why didn’t we see him draped in the flag atop the Olympic podium? Well, that wasn’t his dream. His dream was to be a Buckeye and take the field on Saturday afternoons donning the scarlet and gray. That didn’t stop the Ohio State wrestling coach from doing everything he could to get him to wrestle. He even told Fickell that he didn’t have to practice or prepare for the matches, just show up and wrestle at whatever weight he wanted. Fickell turned the offer down for the good of the Buckeye football program.  Since then, everything he’s done professionally has been for that same reason. He took a graduate assistantship in 1999. He then spent two years in the minor leagues (Akron) getting his feet wet before returning to Columbus in 2002 as special teams coordinator… eventually working his way up to interim head coach this season.

As interim head coach he inherited a tough situation. Fresh off “Tattoogate,” the suspension of the “Buckeye Five” and the dismissal of beloved head coach Jim Tressel, Fickell had to step in and run one of, if not, the biggest football program in the country. I think he did an admirable job of getting the ship back on course and an ok job of on-the-field coaching. Granted there is way more to being a head coach than calling timeouts at the right time and calling the correct play on 2nd and 8, but that notwithstanding Fickell at times, looked, and probably was overmatched for the job. That doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

My personal belief is that Tressel was grooming him to be the “head coach in waiting.” I think Tressell had 8 more years in him, during that time he would be grooming and preparing Fickell for every situation that comes along with the job.  Unfortunately things don’t always work out as planned and this case was no different and Fickell had to take the reins of a wild stallion that he was not seasoned enough to ride. It’s not necessarily that at this time he’s unqualified to be a head coach, just not ready to lead a high profile program like Ohio State.  Regardless, it wasn’t all bad this season. Yes, 6-6 is unacceptable at Ohio State regardless of the situation and I found myself yelling at the tv much more than usual, but he did have a signature win over Big 10 champion Wisconsin. His team also had all the chances in the world to beat Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State, and Purdue… all with a very talented, but true freshman QB and inexperienced players littered around the starting lineup. Sometimes the breaks just don’t go your way, and for Ohio State this season, they certainly did not.

Most importantly, the team believed in him and never quit. Even when they were dealing with things that they didn’t sign up for (6 loss seasons), they rallied around each other and their coach and never gave any less than full effort. That’s why it was music to my ears to hear Urban Meyer announce that he would keep Fickell on staff in some capacity. Luke Fickell is a Buckeye through and through. His work-ethic, passion for the university, recruiting prowess, and ability to develop relationships is something that comes out every time he speaks in a professional sense. He did the university a great service in holding down the fort through tough times, and it’s great to see that he will be there for its return to glory. I can’t think of anyone better to learn how to run a college program than Urban Meyer. With that, Fickell should get all of the seasoning that he needs to eventually take over the program and continue its reign of dominance.

Discussion

2 Responses to “Urban Meyer Made the Right Call in Retaining Fickell”

  1. As long as Urban doesn’t bring that long-lasting Buckeye tradition of an automatic sense of entitlement to the team, and gets them to work hard for every inch, I have no problem with it.
    He won’t be able to take that away from the Buckeye Nation, I understand that.
    That false sense of Entitlement is why most of the nation is rubbed the wrong way by Buckeye fans…very, VERY similar to the Bo-Sox & Yanks, and THE U.
    And finally….thank you for the inclusion in this article : )

    Posted by Bobby Digital | December 1, 2011, 1:40 pm
    • Interesting point that you feel the players feel entitled… which can mean two things in my eyes.
      1) They should be given everything because of who they are (I’d think that is a pretty common theme among big-time D1 football programs).
      2)All we have to do is show up and the other team will lay down (which I don’t think has been the case).

      If somehow Meyer affects the culture to take away #1 that would be incredible. I think Fickell did a decent job of that… because some people have to lose in order to realize their mortality.

      I contrast that to a team’s fanbase being entitled. A fanbase like the Bo-Sox won’t get out of your face about how great they are and how bad your team is… and even when they do lose, it was someone else’s fault. Constantly starving for media validation and attention.

      I also contrast that to a fanbase like Yankee fans, who, by and large can be annoying, but are more respectful about it. They realize they are good and don’t need external validation from the media to know that.

      It’s kind of like Mike Vick (Yankee Fans) vs. Marcus Vick (RedSox Fans). Mike is someone that a lot of people love to hate because how he’s gone about things, but his talent can’t be denied. Marcus, on the other hand, had similar talent, but always acted out, trying to steal any attention he could. Once and a while he would surprise with a great performance, but more often he was just annoying. May be a bad analogy to explain, but I think it makes sense in theory.

      How does this relate to OSU? I don’t know. Mostly because I am in the OSU fanbase, so I don’t find them annoying. They travel well, they are a top 3 athletics department, and they win. When OSU won the national title, I didn’t think their fanbase was over the top, but since you are living in the middle of it, and a fan, but not a die-hard (but converse with many die-hards… some of which are die-hards in name only and have no idea what they are talking about in the slightest), maybe you viewed it differently.

      I think the nation doesn’t like OSU (you can substitute Michigan in here if the teams switched records over the past decade) because the national media and guys like Mark May, Skip Bayless, and even Jim Rome (although he is more of a pot-stirrer than a hater) love to hate on the Big 10. It’s the cool thing to say that the Big 10 plays an old, slow, boring brand of football/basketball and it can’t compete with “real conferences.” So, any school that routinely finishes in the top 5 (as OSU did for the past decade) is automatically over-rated and undeserving of any praise. Plus, Ohio State is huge (despite being one of the toughest schools in the state to get in to) and loves bringing in out of state students in… so, much like the Browns fanbase (can you imagine how quickly the nation would turn on the Browns if they every got consistently good? It would make Ohio State fans look like Pirates fans), Ohio State fans are everywhere. Teams like Florida have fanbases, well, in Florida with an occasional straggler here and there, but nowhere near the national presence of OSU. Add to that, everyone loves to hate the favorite (I’ve even started to hear media backlash against Green Bay… and they’ve been good for about a year). I guess the point is, yes, some OSU fans are annoying… but every fanbase has that, the difference is, when their team isn’t winning, you don’t have to deal with them because they aren’t paying attention due to the lack of a bandwagon to jump on.

      Posted by Jason Marlo | December 1, 2011, 3:55 pm

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