Monday, June 13, 2011

LUKE FICKELL CONFIDENT IN FIRST MEDIA APPEARANCE MONDAY


Luke Fickell (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell addressed the media on Monday in Columbus for the first time since replacing Jim Tressel as the Buckeyes football mentor.

Fickell — who is the Buckeyes 23rd head coach in the school's history — spoke confidently about many different topics with the media Monday, including the direction of the team entering the new era under his guidance, his knowledge of the NCAA violations that eventually cost Tressel his job, and how he views the label "interim coach."


The native of Columbus stated that it didn't matter to him how he gets the opportunity, he's just ready for the challenge of being the new head coach of his alma mater.

"I'll take the shot in any way I possibly can," Fickell said. "We all know here at Ohio State that all eyes are on you, each and every year. That doesn't worry me one bit. We stress to our kids that they have faith and confidence in who we are and where we are headed, and that they understand that we have a plan for the future.

"Ohio State's expectations will not change. Whether there's a tag on the name or if there's not a tag on your name or there's a long-term contract. It doesn't matter. Year in and year out, we will embrace the expectations of being a Buckeye."

Fickell will make $775,000 this season, according to OSU director of athletics Gene Smith.

The Buckeyes new coach was also asked Monday whether or not he was ever aware of the NCAA player violations before they went public last December. Although he couldn't elaborate due to the ongoing investigation, he did offer a brief statement about his knowledge during the entire episode.

"I won't say that I had blinders on," Fickell said. "But I was very focused on the task at hand and I was not informed of any information until it became public knowledge."

The coach wasn't interested in speaking about the recent past, though, he was all about focusing on the present and his duties as the football team's boss.

"It will be about respect, toughness and being men of action," Fickell said boldly of his mission statement. "Those will be our focusses."

Fickell did thank Tressel, though, for mentoring him and helping him become the man and coach he is today.

"(Thanks) to Coach Tressel for the opportunities he's given me," Fickell said. "The friendship, for making me a better coach, husband and father. I thank him.

"He's given me his full support."

Fickell didn't go into a whole lot of detail about personnel issues — most notably the quarterback position — and said he hasn't spoken to Terrelle Pryor since the senior-to-be quit the team last week.

Fickell's coaching career began in 1999 as a Graduate Assistant at Ohio State. He then went onto coach two years at the University of Akron as the Zips defensive line coach. In 2002, Fickell joined Tressel's staff as a special teams coordinator and helped guide the Buckeyes to an undefeated national championship campaign. Fickell would hold that position for two years before being named as linebackers coach in 2004.

Fickell would be promoted to Co-Defensive Coordinator by Tressel in 2005, and held that title until being named interim head coach last month. Fickell was named the 2010 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).

He is a graduate of DeSales High School (1992) in Columbus. He is also a graduate of The Ohio State University (exercise science, 1997) and was a four-year starter at nose guard for the Buckeyes football team (1992-96).

During his career at Ohio State, Fickell registered 212 total tackles, including 26 for loss and six sacks.

Although he didn't make any guarantees about beating Michigan like Tressel did days after being named the coach in 2001, Fickell did make mention of the upcoming contest against the hated Wolverines.

"Our guys will know about November 26th," Fickell said. "I promise you that."