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Cincinnati Football: Coaching Candidates to Replace Luke Fickell

Who could replace Luke Fickell as the next head coach at Cincinnati?
Luke Fickell, Cincinatti Bearcats Football

Cincinnati is looking for a new head coach after Luke Fickell left to take over at Wisconsin. Fickell compiled a 57-18 record with the Bearcats  since 2017 and guided the program to an appearance in the CFB Playoff in '21. Assistant Kerry Coombs will work as the program's interim coach. Athletic director John Cunningham should have no shortage of interest in this job. Cincinnati is set to move to the Big 12 in 2023, has a strong in-state recruiting base, and is willing to pay good money for a head coach (Fickell's salary was $5 million).  

Who could replace Fickell at Cincinnati? Here are some names to watch in the coaching search:

Cincinnati Football: Coaching Candidates to Replace Luke Fickell

Jamey Chadwell, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
It's only a matter of time before Chadwell moves up the coaching ladder. The Tennessee native is 39-21 at Coastal Carolina, recording a 31-5 mark over the last three seasons. The Chanticleers finished No. 14 nationally in 2020 and will play for the Sun Belt title in '22. Chadwell doesn't have any experience in the state of Ohio, but he's been a successful head coach at North Greenville (22-14), Delta State and Charleston Southern (35-14) prior to his current run at Coastal Carolina. 

Kerry Coombs, Interim Head Coach, Cincinnati
Few coaches know the state of Ohio as well as Coombs, so it's no surprise he's set to work as the interim coach during the search to replace Fickell. The Ohio native worked as the head coach at Colerain High School (1991-06) before landing on Cincinnati's staff (2007-11). After a five-year run with the Bearcats, Coombs spent the next five seasons at Ohio State (2013-17), followed by a stop in the NFL with the Titans (2018-19). Coombs returned to Columbus as defensive coordinator (2020-21), but he was demoted after the Buckeyes struggled and returned to Cincinnati before the '22 season.

Alex Golesh, Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee
Golesh's stock is on the rise after helping Josh Heupel build one of the nation's top offenses at Tennessee. He also knows the state of Ohio well after graduating from Dublin Scioto High School and later Ohio State ('06). In addition to his current stint in Knoxville, Golesh has gathered a wealth of experience from stops at Toledo, Illinois, Iowa State and UCF. Golesh does not have any previous experience as a head coach.

Gino Guidugli, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati
Guidugli played his college ball with the Bearcats and has spent the last six years on staff, including the '22 season as offensive coordinator. He doesn't have any head-coaching experience but knows the ins and outs of the program and would ensure continuity from the previous staff.

Brian Hartline, Wide Receivers Coach, Ohio State
Hartline is a rising star thanks to recruiting prowess and ability to develop receivers at a high level. He doesn't have any experience as a head coach or coordinator but knows the state well as an Ohio native and his stint as a player and coach at Ohio State.

Tom Herman, Former Texas Head Coach
With a move to the Big 12 on tap for 2023, how about a coach who knows the league and is also from Ohio? Herman has been out of coaching for the last two seasons, but all signs point to an interest in a return to the sidelines. He has previous coaching experience in the state from a three-year run as Ohio State's offensive coordinator (2012-14). Herman went 22-4 as Houston's head coach (2015-16) and finished 32-18 at Texas (2017-20).

Jim Leonhard, Interim Head Coach, Wisconsin
Leonhard didn't get the job at Wisconsin, but he should get looks at other programs for a head-coaching spot this offseason. The Wisconsin native is one of the top defensive minds in college football and went 4-3 in his interim stint with the Badgers. Leonhard is a rising star, and it's only a matter of time before he's in the NFL as an assistant or a head coach at the collegiate level.

Jesse Minter, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan
Jesse's father (Rick Minter) worked as Cincinnati's head coach from 1994-03, so there's plenty of familiarity with the program. Minter does not have head-coaching experience, but he's a rising star in the assistant ranks after guiding Michigan's defense to a spot among the nation's best in '22. He previously had stops in his career at Indiana State, Georgia State, Vanderbilt and in the NFL with the Ravens.

Mike Tressel, Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati
Tressel is another option on the staff for Cunningham to consider for the top spot. The Ohio native does not have any experience as a head coach but has garnered a valuable track record as an assistant at Cincinnati (2004-06 and '21-current) and Michigan State (2007-19). 

Wild-Card Options/Longshots to Watch?

Matt Campbell, Head Coach, Iowa State
Campbell's name seems to pop up for vacancies every offseason, and that's certainly held true this year with openings at Nebraska, Wisconsin and Auburn. Although it's a longshot, Campbell is a native of Ohio and spent a good chunk of his coaching career in the state with stops at Mount Union, Bowling Green and Toledo. Iowa State is one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12, but Campbell has guided the program to a 46-42 mark since '16. The Cyclones also have five bowl trips and winning seasons under Campbell's direction. Cincinnati probably ranks a little higher on the list of best jobs in college football, but regardless of who is hired, the program will have to transition to the Big 12. Is that a challenge Campbell could want in his home state? Although Iowa State finished 4-8 this year, the Cyclones should improve in '23 and Campbell won't have to guide a program through a transition if he returns. 

Deion Sanders, Head Coach, Jackson State
Sanders' name has popped up in searches at Arizona State, Auburn, USF, and Colorado this offseason. It's no secret Sanders is an excellent recruiter, but he's also 26-5 in three years at Jackson State.