By BILL Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
Luke Fickell was reluctant to say much. This was Urban Meyer’s moment, he said.
Repeating a line he’d used all year in his only season as Ohio State coach, Fickell said: “It’s not about me.”
But Fickell will stay on the Buckeyes’ coaching staff under Meyer.
“I’m back, and I’m happy to be here,” Fickell said. “It’s an emotional time.”
Sources said he will be the defensive coordinator, although neither Meyer nor Fickell would confirm that.
“It will be a significant title and significant position on our staff,” Meyer said.
Said Fickell, “I’m going to let him do the talking.”
Fickell had hopes of retaining his head-coaching job, but a 6-6 record that included losses in Ohio State’s final three regular-season games doomed his chances. Fickell and his staff will coach the Buckeyes in whatever bowl they play in, athletic director Gene Smith said.
Smith said he informed Fickell on Wednesday night that he would not continue as coach beyond this season, after Fickell asked to be informed of his status. They met at the Schottenstein Center during the Ohio State-VMI men’s basketball game.
“He wanted the job, and rightfully so,” Smith said. “He had positioned himself well. So he was disappointed.”
If Meyer had not been available, Smith said, he had other candidates in addition to Fickell.
Smith and Meyer lauded the job Fickell did under trying circumstances.
“You think of that game on Saturday, and there was real grit,” Smith said of the 40-34 loss to Michigan. “That was Luke grit. He manned up.”
Meyer said that he met Fickell five years ago when Fickell visited him at Florida.
“I have great respect [for him],” Meyer said. “I thought he’s a man’s man.”
When deciding whether to keep Fickell, Meyer did his research. He talked to Fickell’s colleagues. He watched tape of the Ohio State defense. On Sunday night, Meyer and his wife, Shelley, met with Fickell and his wife, Amy, for several hours.
On Monday morning, Fickell and Meyer met over coffee, and Meyer offered him a job.
“There’s no doubt I wanted him to be a part of this team,” Meyer said. “And he was very open and shook my hand, a big smile on his face.”
There had been speculation that Fickell would pursue a head-coaching job if spurned by Ohio State.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to be a head coach someday, but there’s no place like Ohio State,” Fickell said.
The status of other current assistants is unknown.