As soon as Brian Kelly decided to leave Notre Dame to take the LSU Tigers head coaching job, speculation started running rampant about who might replace him.
While the Irish has a very strong candidate in-house in defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, plenty of people assumed that Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell would be the ideal hire to keep Notre Dame football on track.
Fickell is considered one of the hottest coaching prospects now that he’s led Cincy to a 12-0 record in his fifth season at the helm. Assuming they can win the AAC Championship, they should end up in the College Football Playoff, a huge accomplishment for a non-P5 program. Fickell is also 47-14 overall at Cincinnati as well.
Naturally, Fickell was asked Tuesday about the possibility of exploring the Notre Dame job. Naturally, he denied interest, although he certainly did it in that coachspeak way that leaves the door open.
Luke Fickell was asked to address the Notre Dame job opening: “I don’t know what there is to address? There is nothing. That’s the crazy thing. It’s all whatever is being said out there. There is no speculation… All I care about is the guys that sit in this room.” #Bearcats pic.twitter.com/Q17drHrG3X
— Brandon Saho (@BrandonSaho) November 30, 2021
“I don’t know what there is to address,” Fickell said. “I don’t talk to a whole lot of people. There is nothing. That’s the crazy thing. It’s all whatever is being said out there and different things. There is no speculation.”
“Is the [Notre Dame] job open?” Fickell asked. “I guess it is. I wouldn’t know if somebody didn’t tell me. Most importantly, all I care about is the guys that sit in this room.”
That’s a no but it’s not a hard no. And plenty of people on social media noticed.
Not saying he takes ND job…but if anyone thinks he takes the job and Notre Dame will allow him to coach UC in Jan in the CFP is in for a rude awakening. https://t.co/gzpbxAlhW3
— Rocky Boiman (@ROCKYBOIMAN50) November 30, 2021
If I may borrow from Watergate, this sounds like a non-denial denial https://t.co/92rcO9sBAA
— Keith Kokinda (@KeithKokinda) November 30, 2021
Nothing? Don't know what to address? Huh? How about I'm not interested in the job? I'm
not leaving. Seems simple. https://t.co/TGun5tjA8e
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) November 30, 2021
Was this a no… https://t.co/5cO7Zys5s5
— Nicolette (@NicoletteMpls) November 30, 2021
You can’t really blame Fickell if he does take the Notre Dame job, or any P5 job really. He’s proven that he can build a winner at Cincinnati and it’s going to be pretty hard to maintain that level of excellence there. Meanwhile, he can take his talents to South Bend or another big program and have a much easier road to constant success. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he’ll stay at Cincinnati too, but, believe a football coach at your own risk.