Luke Fickell embraces Bearcats’ probability as Ohio’s final crew standing in 2020

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell watched the Mid-American Convention cancel its season Aug. eight and the Huge Ten comply with go well with three days later.  

Ohio State — the three-time Huge Ten defending champion — and 6 Mid-American Convention faculties within the state postponed their fall seasons. That left the Bearcats because the final FBS crew in Ohio standing for 2020. 

Fickell, who performed at Ohio State earlier than serving as an assistant there for 16 seasons, managed these feelings whereas making an attempt to keep up fall camp.  

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“It was powerful on us as coaches, and it was much more troublesome on the children — the 18-to-22-year-olds,” Fickell advised Sporting Information. “Let’s be trustworthy, it is onerous to get motivated, particularly at camp, if you consider that issues may get canceled quickly. 

“Residing in Ohio and Huge Ten nation and being from right here, you form of assumed issues would comply with in that route. Our guys fought by means of it, nevertheless it wasn’t with out lots of ups and downs.”  

With all that uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cincinnati stayed in a bubble of kinds on the Greater Floor Convention and Retreat Middle for 19 days in August. Coaches and gamers stayed on the facility. No person left, and it labored. 

“We had been finest after we put the ball down and simply performed,” Fickell mentioned. “That is what our youngsters like to do. We may do it as a result of we had been extra mature and have children who can do it.” 

Cincinnati emerges from that with a novel alternative in 2020. The American Athletic Convention moved ahead with its choice to play. The Bearcats, who’ve gained 11 video games every of the previous two seasons, are the highest-ranked Group of 5 college within the AP Prime 25, at No. 20.  

Cincinnati opens its season Sept. 19 in opposition to Austin Peay, and the Bearcats added Military to the schedule Sept. 26 to make up for the lack of two MAC opponents. When requested concerning the scheduling quirks, Fickell merely laughed.  

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“You threw out the window, ‘Effectively, who’ve we ready for? Who do we all know? Which groups would we be higher off taking part in?'” Fickell mentioned. “You form of mentioned all the pieces else is overridden as a result of we need to make certain we are able to get no less than two (nonconference) video games in as a result of among the groups in our league would get three.”  

Soccer season in Ohio turned a actuality for Fickell on Aug. 28. He can attend highschool video games involving his son Landon, a guard for Cincinnati Moeller Excessive College. That led to a dialog between the 2 that the coach continues to stay by in a state that has been on the heart of the COVID-19 soccer debate. 

“It isn’t simply to be grateful — that begins it — however now it’s a must to refocus your self,” he mentioned. “If we will do that, there’s one goal — and that is proceed to win, proceed to develop and proceed to construct.” 

The implications for this season are distinctive. With simply three Energy 5 conferences taking part in, there’s buzz across the AAC about snagging a School Soccer Playoff spot beneath the correct circumstances. UCF was unable to crack the Playoff regardless of back-to-back undefeated common seasons in 2017-18. May the Bearcats be that crew in a quirky 2020 season?  

“Now we have not talked about that loads,” Fickell mentioned. “We’re in a distinct state of affairs the place for the primary time they’re really speaking about us. I do not like that. I prefer it the opposite means round once they’re not providing you with any respect and issues like that. 

“We’re not a goal-oriented crew as a result of targets are issues that you simply measure on the finish of the 12 months. If you get caught taking a look at targets, you miss the targets. That is form of been our philosophy all alongside.”  

Fickell did concede that these potentialities have generated extra pleasure in recruiting and with fan help, and the long-term prospects for this system are on the rise once more. Cincinnati loved 5 seasons with double-digit victories from 2007 to 2012 beneath former coaches Brian Kelly and Butch Jones. These two coaches went on to jobs at Notre Dame and Tennessee, respectively.  

Fickell was a candidate for the Michigan State job this offseason, however he opted to remain in his residence state. In a way, Cincinnati was ready for the challenges of 2020 earlier than it entered the camp at Greater Floor in August. This season is now a springboard, and so long as Fickell is round, that will not change — it doesn’t matter what occurs in 2020.  

“I actually do assume we’ve the makings of the stuff you want that proceed to develop and proceed to final over time,” he mentioned. “Whether or not you might have an up or down 12 months, it is not going to interrupt you if have an excellent program.”  

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