Fickell Talks Music, Pryor, Vests and More

Feel free to identify Luke Fickell as a country music fan, but please refrain from calling him the interim head coach of the Ohio State football team. Do not expect to see him copying his former boss' fashion sense, either. Fickell made that much and more clear during an appearance on the national radio program The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday morning.

After a university spokesperson told the show's producers Fickell should be referred to simply as "Ohio State head coach," Fickell confirmed to host Dan Patrick that Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith had removed the "interim" tag within the past month.

"Gene assured me that was the way they wanted to go," Fickell said.

Asked for clarification later, an Ohio State official said via email, "Luke is our head coach this year. At some point either during the season or after the season a decision will be made on who will be our coach going forward."

Fickell was named interim head coach May 30 after the resignation of long-time boss Jim Tressel, with whom Fickell said he still stays in touch even though they have not spoken face-to-face since the day the change took place.

"We have a relationship outside the university," Fickell said, noting he spent nine years on Tressel's staff as an assistant with various duties. "He's not been around the facility or anything, but out of respect he wouldn't do that anyway."

Fickell also confirmed an earlier statement he made about not returning a phone call from erstwhile Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who announced June 7 he was skipping his senior season with the intention of beginning a pro career amid dealing with ongoing allegations of NCAA violations.

"I was at the Taylor Swift concert so I didn't have a chance to speak with him," Fickell said, referring to the multiplatinum country music star who played at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus on June 7.

The coach went on to say he still had not spoken with him, adding, "He knows we wish him the best of luck and that we're going to encourage him when we do talk to him about getting back and finishing his education."

A four-year starter for the Buckeyes on the defensive line from 1993-96, Fickell has admitted leading his alma mater is a life-long dream, but he said he has not had time to reflect on what's transpired in the past year just yet.

"Everything has happened so fast," Fickell said. "Probably the greatest thing is I haven't had the opportunity to step back and think about it. People always ask, 'How do you feel? Are you nervous? You're the head coach.' I said, 'You know what, I haven't thought about it or had that opportunity to sit and relax a little bit. I've just been focused on moving forward.' "

While saying potential NCAA sanctions involving players receiving improper benefits and Tressel's exit after admitting to ethics violations are not of his immediate concern because they are out of his control as the university awaits an Aug. 12 hearing before the organization's Committee On Infractions, Fickell acknowledged there is a need to examine ways to prevent the program from falling into trouble again.

That is a process that will take much time and effort, particularly given the climate in Columbus.

"Well you grew up in Ohio," Fickell told Patrick, who attended Mason High School and the University of Dayton. "You know how these people can be. It's a love for the game. They love their Buckeyes. There are some things that people have to be aware of. People don't understand NCAA rules, and that is a part of it. Now our kids have got to be held to a standard that they understand what they can and can't do, but you've got to understand there are some differences that come with being the 15th largest city in the country and there are things you've got to be aware of with Ohio State and in Columbus, Ohio. People are going to be loving and looking for those guys and don't realize they would even be doing anything wrong."

Fickell said he has "not one bit" of doubt he can succeed at the helm of the Buckeyes - or another arena.

When Patrick asked him who would emerge victorious if all 12 Big Ten football coaches were put in an octagon - the signature ring of the mixed-martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship - there was no hesitation in the Ohio State head coach.

"Me," he said immediately.

Asked to clarify why, the former Ohio state champion wrestler at Columbus DeSales explained, "I just know my abilities and I've got confidence in what I do. Eighteen years of wrestling probably does help a little bit in my book, but, hey, you've got to have confidence in what you do, right?"

Lastly, he said he would likely not be seen on the sidelines sporting one of Tressel's signature sweater vests.

"No, I don't think that's much of a chance right now," Fickell said. "There are some things I say are sacred, and that might be one of them."

A busy week for Fickell continues Wednesday morning when he appears with Ohio State head basketball coach Thad Matta at the annual Morning Sports Report being put on by the Greater Columbus Sports Commission in downtown Columbus.

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