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Cincinnati Bearcats coach Luke Fickell on NFL coaching radar this offseason

Luke Fickell
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The college football coaching carousel is slowing down and it seems increasingly likely that Luke Fickell will remain with the Cincinnati Bearcats. But as his team prepares for the College Football Playoffs, NFL teams are already thinking about convincing him to make the leap.

Fickell is one of the best coaches in college football. He joined Cincinnati in 2017, taking over a program that has become a pipeline for coaching talent (Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly). But unlike his predecessors, the Bearcats will be competing for a national championship under their current head coach.

When the LSU Tigers and USC Trojans’ head-coaching positions opened, Fickell emerged as a likely target. But he stayed at Cincinnati, even after Brian Kelly joined the Tigers and created a brief opening at Notre Dame. With the top coaching positions at the collegiate level taken, the NFL could be next.

According to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, many around the league expect Fickell to be in the mix to become an NFL head coach this offseason.

Notably, per Pelissero, Fickell has already gone through the interview process once. Before hiring Dan Campbell, the Detroit Lions spoke to the Bearcats’ head coach about their vacancy.

  • Luke Fickell record (Cincinnati Bearcats): 48-13, three-time AAC Coach of the Year

Heading to the NFL is largely viewed as a dream job for many in coaching, but it doesn’t mean Fickell might jump ship immediately. Thanks to extension and some splash hires, the highest-paid coaches in college football will be making far more money in 2022 than they earned this year.

Fickell also isn’t tied to the NFL. A former defensive lineman at Ohio State, Fickell spent the 1997 season on injured reserve with the New Orleans Saints. Two years later, he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant on the Buckeyes’ coaching staff. He has also never coached in the NFL.

While NFL coaching salaries are expected to climb in the coming years, staying in college might be the best option as of now. A top collegiate coach will make far more than a first-year NFL coach and Fickell might still have his eye on succeeding Ryan Day at Ohio State if he leaves for the NFL.