Luke Fickell Denies Interest in USC Coaching Job: 'It's Nothing but Distractions'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 14, 2021

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Cincinnati Bearcats is seen during the game against the Houston Cougars at Nippert Stadium on November 7, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has dismissed rumors linking him with the vacant USC job.

"Look, I don't talk to anybody—I barely talk to my own family during the season," he said Tuesday. "So I wouldn't ever talk about it, nor would I even answer a phone call or anything like that. ... It's nothing but distractions if people allow it to be, and for us it can't be."

Justin Williams @Williams_Justin

Here are Luke Fickell's full comments on the USC head coaching vacancy/chatter: "I wouldn't ever talk about it, nor would I even answer a phone call or anything like that. I know nothing, nor does it make me have any interest." <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bearcats?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bearcats</a> <a href="https://t.co/1uDlPnA8eJ">pic.twitter.com/1uDlPnA8eJ</a>

USC athletic director Mike Bohn announced Monday the Trojans were moving on from Clay Helton. CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd reported shortly thereafter the program intends to pursue Fickell.

The 48-year-old is one of the more obvious candidates for USC to target.

He worked his way up the ladder at Ohio State to become the co-defensive coordinator and was on the staff for two national championship-winning teams with the Buckeyes. 

At Cincinnati, Fickell inherited a program that went backward under Tommy Tuberville and turned the Bearcats into one of the best teams outside of a Power Five conference. They went 9-1 in 2020 and nearly took down Georgia in the Peach Bowl.

Fickell and Bohn have an existing relationship as well since Bohn was the person who hired Fickell at Cincinnati following the 2016 season.

USC suffered a 42-28 loss to Stanford in its second game, a result that Bohn clearly felt warranted a change in direction. By firing Helton, now, though, the Trojans put a lot of candidates in a precarious spot.

It seems unlikely that any coach who's currently employed will take the USC job in the middle of the season. As a result, anybody who's plausibly in the picture is potentially facing months of Trojans-related questions and speculation.

Fickell has plenty of reasons to stick around at Cincinnati. The Bearcats have quickly become a consistent winner on the gridiron, and their profile is due to climb in the years ahead with the Big 12 formally extending the school an invitation.

In many ways, going to USC would be a step up because it's one of the bigger single brands in college football. But the Pete Carroll era obscured how the Trojans weren't a perennial title contender in the years preceding and following his tenure.

The heights USC enjoyed under Carroll have now created a gap between what many fans expect and what the team can realistically achieve in the short term. It wouldn't be surprising if Fickell didn't want to take that on.

Until Bohn officially announces the Trojans' next head coach, this probably won't be the last time Fickell has to publicly distance himself from the position.