Cincinnati hired Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell as its head coach, turning to the Buckeye state native to re-establish a program that has slipped in recent years.
He agreed to a six-year deal pending approval from the board of trustees, the school said Saturday. He was to be introduced at a news conference later in the day.
Fickell, a former Ohio State defensive lineman from Columbus, has been a coach with the Buckeyes since 2002. He spent one season as head coach in 2011, taking over after Jim Tressel was fired during the offseason and going 6-7.
When coach Urban Meyer came to Ohio State in 2012, Fickell was retained and has been part of a staff that has won a national title and two Big Ten championships.
“It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati,” Fickell said in a statement.
“This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort.
“That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city and we will make you proud.”
Fickell replaces Tommy Tuberville, who stepped down after four seasons at Cincinnati. The Bearcats went 4-8 this season and 29-22 under Tuberville.
Cincinnati had five double-digit victory seasons in a six-year span (2007-12) under former coaches Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.
Under Tuberville, Cincinnati won nine games in each of his first two seasons, but then dropped to just 11 total victories in the final two seasons.
“His extensive ties to the state of Ohio, experience at a championship-level program in Ohio State, ability to evaluate and develop talent, energy and leadership are all qualities which set him apart,” Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn said of Fickell.
The 43-year-old Fickell has shared the defensive coordinator role the past three years, first with Chris Ash and this season with Greg Schiano.
Since 2005, defenses coached by Fickell at Ohio State have ranked among the top 40 in the country in yards allowed per play every year, averaging a ranking of No. 17. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 3 in the nation this season.
Fickell’s one season as head coach came under difficult circumstances. Tressel was fired for lying to NCAA investigators and the school about violations involving players trading memorabilia and gear for tattoos and cash.