The coaching situation for the University of Wisconsin football team’s bowl game got clearer, but the leader of the previous coaching staff is still making his decision.
UW coach Luke Fickell, who was hired Nov. 27 after six seasons at Cincinnati, said during a Zoom news conference that the assistant coaches who have been with the team this season will coach the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and that he will have a role. Fickell said he envisioned acting as head coach.
“I just want to be around the guys,” Fickell said. “I know this is maybe not been done before, maybe unique in a new coach in some ways coaching the bowl game, but I think it's really important to me. It's important for us. I think it's important for us to move forward, for me to be around these guys with all the options that these guys have nowadays. Just the chance to leave, if necessary, or if they believe it's best.
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“There's only one way to keep guys and there's only one way to build a program and it starts with relationships. And the next three weeks is the best time for me to really start building these relationships with these guys.”
However, what former interim coach and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard will do is still up in the air. Fickell said he “opened the door” for Leonhard to be on his staff, but did not specify the role offered. Fickell said he and Leonhard have spoken three times this week to speak about philosophies and the options in front of Leonhard, but said there’s no rush for Leonhard to make his decision.
Fickell was the interim coach at Ohio State in 2011 and has been through what UW is experiencing now, changing coaches during bowl prep. He said that time with the Buckeyes informed how he wanted to handle the transition at UW.
One of UW’s assistants, offensive line coach Bob Bostad, has already accepted a job at Indiana. His status for the bowl game is unclear.
Fickell led Cincinnati for six seasons, winning nine or more games the last five, and is bringing some of his assistants with him. However, those coaches won’t be involved with the team during bowl prep.
“I want this to be a great experience for the players,” Fickell said, “and to have a bunch of different people around not knowing what their role is or other guys watching, I don’t think it’s the best thing for everybody involved. We’re going to do this thing with this staff.”
Fickell said he wanted to give the assistant coaches who’d been through a tumultuous season at UW the opportunity to finish the year.
“I think that's what's best for the kids,” he said. “These guys love this place and to be able to get some closure, I know that’s what's gonna be hardest for me is not getting closure and finishing out with the guys I have in Cincinnati.
“And I think where this is a new world and is maybe unprecedented in some of the things that's going on, I also think it's still what's best for the guys within your program. And the unique thing here is, there's so many guys, not only players but also coaches, that have such deep roots here and want nothing more than to have some closure, finish this thing the right way and make sure to do it with the kids.”
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