What Fickell Needs To Say Today

Today, Luke Fickell will address the nation for his first press conference as Ohio State's interim head coach. BSB staff writer Adam Jardy offers some thoughts on what the former linebackers coach needs to say and what Buckeye fans want to hear.

This afternoon, Luke Fickell will make his long-awaited inaugural appearance as Ohio State's interim football coach. The press conference, scheduled to start at 4 p.m., comes two weeks to the day that Jim Tressel resigned from his post and six days after quarterback Terrelle Pryor followed him out the door.

It is the latest in a string of chances for OSU to get things right from a public relations standpoint. Now it is Fickell's turn, and he will enter the undisclosed location with a chance to "win" the press conference.

What does he need to say? Here's a primer.

Be Respectful, But Create Distance – The last time we heard from Fickell, he was swearing allegiance to Tressel six ways from Sunday during a press conference one day before spring practice kicked off.

"This is Coach Tressel's team," he said. "The foundation has been laid."

Both statements were true three months ago but the former no longer applies. Fickell would not be in this position were it not for Tressel, who helped mold and nurture him as a coach.

However, that influence can take Fickell no further. Now he must step out and make the case that the job should be his on a permanent basis, and that requires distancing himself from the previous administration while remaining as respectful as possible.

This has to now become Fickell's team. It can not remain Tressel's.

Emphasize The Program – At his last press conference, Fickell made a great point that could go a long way toward enjoying success this season.

"This place is not about one person," he said. "It's not about Coach Tress. It's not about who's going to be wearing the headset on Saturday afternoon. It's much bigger than that. Ohio State football never has been and never will be about one player in particular. It's about Ohio State football and most importantly it's going to be about these 2011 Buckeyes."

As he put it, OSU is bigger than any one player or coach. There is tradition there that dates back generations and tradition that will continue forever. Fickell has to sell those narratives as he goes out and attempts to woo a top-notch recruiting class.

Remember, there is no guarantee that this is the same man who will be standing at the same podium in six months. He must sell recruits, families and the public that in the long run, the Buckeyes will be fine because they will always be led by fellow Buckeyes.

Stress Opportunity – This is not how Fickell wanted to be named coach of his alma mater, but now he must play the cards he has been dealt. At his March press conference, Fickell waxed philosophical about the situation.

"We always talk about how life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how we respond to it," he said. "This is the time we're going to see how we respond to all the adversities and different situations, how each coach can step up their game, how each kid will respond. I think that's the exciting thing about it."

Fickell will have numerous teachable moments in the coming months. He has been placed in an adverse situation and needs to show that he is capable of weathering the storm if he wants to keep the position on a permanent basis.

Granted, the whole season could be a wash if the NCAA keeps the Buckeyes from taking part in postseason play. However, don't you think a 12-0 season would be a pretty strong endorsement of Fickell's abilities?

Tough Love – Not all of Fickell's goals need to be reflected in the team's win-loss record, however, especially if the postseason is out of the picture. Right now – fairly or unfairly – the perception is one of a lax atmosphere inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Position battles are constantly waged at OSU, but reemphasizing the need to earn a spot will send a clear message to players that nothing is promised this fall. To hammer this point home, Fickell should not promise the suspended players their starting spots immediately upon their return. If Mike Adams, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Solomon Thomas want back into the rotation, they must earn it while they are suspended.

Also, hit back. If Fickell feels the program is being treated unfairly, drawing a line in the sand would certainly endear him to Buckeye fans.

Embrace The Rivalry – One of the best things about Tressel as head coach of the Buckeyes was the way he seemed to live and breathe the rivalry with Michigan.

Fickell knows plenty about the OSU-Michigan rivalry. He played in it and now has coached in it, giving him a unique perspective on what transpires on that Saturday afternoon in November.

When the Wolverines announced Brady Hoke as their new coach, he immediately placed his personal stamp on The Game by referring to his rival as simply "Ohio." Fickell can not take the podium and promise that fans will be proud of his players in 166 days in Ann Arbor and he can't simply start referring to "the team up north."

With all the negative publicity swirling around the program right now, OSU fans would embrace a simple "this is the biggest game on the schedule and we have already started preparing for it" from their new coach.

Finally, Just Win – Perception can be everything in college football, and right now the perception about OSU is not good. Six months ago, the same could be said for Michigan until Hoke was hired as the new coach. In his initial press conference, Hoke said all the right things, gave off the right vibe and "won" the press conference.

It did not put a single victory in U-M's win column this season, but it helped turn the way the program was viewed from a national standpoint. Fickell now has that same opportunity – albeit with greater stakes – and he must take advantage.

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