Fickell Glad To Stay, Talks Future

The Ohio State football program will rely on Luke Fickell to be the head coach for one more game - the Gator Bowl. Fickell talked about his decision to return to Ohio State and what his future may hold on Sunday evening. Get all the details inside.

Invited to speak on a conference call Sunday evening to formally accept Ohio State's bid to the Gator Bowl, Luke Fickell admitted numerous times that the past year as the Buckeyes head coach was a difficult task.

What wasn't difficult, however, was Fickell's choice to return to Ohio State after newly hired head coach Urban Meyer offered him the opportunity to do so.

"To me there is no other place for me to go in college football and that's the way I feel about Ohio State," Fickell said on the call. "When I got the opportunity to sit down with Coach Meyer, the No. 1 most important thing is that he's got to do what's best for his program and moving it forward.

"If that happens to be me, (I told him) I'd love to be a part of it, but I know that doesn't always fit the bill. For the program I wanted what was best, I am excited to be back and to me that's the most important thing."

Perhaps Fickell wasn't ready for such a task. Despite being only 38 years old, Fickell was Ohio State's choice to replace Jim Tressel, a coach that led the Buckeyes to its first national title in over 30 years and countless other BCS bowl appearances.

Not only was Tressel gone, but Ohio State said goodbye to its most dynamic player in Terrelle Pryor and the issues with the NCAA had still yet to be resolved.

The result was a season in which the Buckeyes went 6-6 and missed out on at least a share for the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2004. As if that wasn't enough, Fickell will lead Ohio State for the final time against Florida, the program Meyer coached to two national title games in the recent past.

"I don't know that this is going to make it any more difficult for me," Fickell said of playing Florida. "I don't know if (this season) can get more difficult. It may be a unique situation for the other people involved, but for our coaches and our players, I don't know if they'll know much of a difference.

"They're excited about playing Florida, playing in the Gator Bowl and playing on Jan. 2 and trying to do the best job we can to end the season on a good note with all the ups and downs that we've have."

Though Fickell will remain on staff under Meyer next season the exact position he'll hold has yet to be publicly announced.

"I have spent a lot of time with him the last few weeks when I haven't been on the road," Fickell said of Meyer. "I am going to be a part of the staff and we have talked about in what capacity and stuff, but until he goes public and releases all those things, I am going to allow him to make those decisions publicly. We have an idea of the direction we're going and he has an idea. That's his area to go ahead and let everybody know."

Things are still unclear in terms of how the bowl game will be approached and Fickell isn't even aware if Meyer will make the trip to Jacksonville. A few times during his conference call Fickell even alluded to the possibility some of the current staff members wouldn't be a part of the preparation.

Fickell expects that Meyer will be around enough to help to a certain extent, but bowl preparation is still up in the air.

"We are going to continue to focus on the guys that are going to be coaching the bowl," Fickell said. "I couldn't tell you exactly how the whole situation is going to work, but I don't know if I would sit there and explain it to anyone other than our team and our coaches anyway.

"Just know you're going to get our best effort and these guys are going to know they are going to get coached and it may be by more people and who knows who may not be there at times as well. It will be interesting to see how the whole situation is going to work out, but we'll be excited about doing it."

Despite rumors that Ohio State would potentially decline a bowl bid, Fickell said he wasn't aware of those rumors. Instead, the Buckeyes will continue to grow in the 15 practices allotted to prepare for the postseason.

"These guys deserve it," Fickell said. "All the stuff they've been through, the ups and the downs, the struggles, they deserve this. I don't think for our program I don't think you can take a step back and do that. This is a way for us to get better, we have a lot of young guys. This is a very young football team and to have these 15 or 16 practices is a big part of growing up and moving forward.

"I never heard (the rumors of players not wanting to play in the bowl) and if that was the case then those probably wouldn't be the guys that we'd want to go to the game with anyway. I've been around these guys for a long time. I know what kind of competitive nature they have in them and that's what is important. I could not imagine the guys in our program having that kind of feeling."

EXTRA POINTS

  • Florida head coach Will Muschamp confirmed that strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti left the Gators football program to pursue a position at Ohio State under Meyer.

    "Mickey left to go to Ohio State, but our coaching staff is in tact," Muschamp said. "We've had coaches on our staff have other options, other opportunities. Again, I'm excited about the continuity of our staff and the staff that's in place."

    "I'm going to take my time (on replacing Mickey). That's a critical hire. Mickey did a great job at the University of Florida. I appreciate his efforts, but we need to get stronger. We need to get physically and more mentally tough, and it starts there in the weight room. That's a critical hire for me."

  • Despite reports that Ohio State freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier may miss the bowl game because of a torn MCL suffered in the Michigan game, Fickell said there's a chance he could play in the Gator Bowl.

    "I hope he is OK," Fickell said. "We are not positive, but I heard it was just a strain. But every indication I get is that he might be still another week or so but he'll be alright and excited about playing in the bowl for sure."

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