PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Wisconsin’s new coach, Luke Fickell, will continue to be a presence around the Badgers during Tuesday night’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, but not as the man in charge, he said Monday. .
Fickell plans to sit on the sidelines, wearing a headset and training where he can help, but will continue to let interim head coach Jim Leonhard handle his duties against Oklahoma State.
“I’m coaching in a way that’s really allowing these guys to handle things the way they’ve handled them,” Fickell said during the Badgers’ media day. “And they’ve been great. They’ve been very mature about it. Jim has been amazing.”
“I’m kind of the guy that just, you know, maybe a little bit more like a figurehead and we’ll communicate with those guys on situational things, but we haven’t changed a thing: the way we practice, the way they go about a practice on Tuesday, a practice on Wednesday, a practice on Thursday, a practice on Friday, how are you going to do on game day?
Fickell said his communication during Tuesday night’s game will be “very different” than it normally would be during a game. He will help convey Leonhard’s plan to the team as he tries to keep “everything as similar as possible.”
“I think that’s the only chance it gives you to be successful,” Fickell said.
Fickell, who was signed out of Cincinnati on Nov. 27, made a strategic decision not to take the reins from Leonhard when he joined, but wanted to find a way to be close to his new team.
It was a balance he had to discover.
“I didn’t want to be that guy who was on the Zoom call while the game was going on, and while the guys on his program and team were sweating and working hard and stuff like that,” Fickell said. “And really, just with the new era of college football right now, how can you really take care of your program and your team and your guys if you’re not around them? … I mean, if you don’t talk to them in this time, someone else does, and I don’t think there’s any way to keep what you’re doing intact unless you’re constantly around them and communicating with them.”
Fickell has been delegating current staff to run basically everything. He said he was asked who the starting quarterback will be Tuesday night, but he declines to answer.
“How arrogant would you have to be to walk in three weeks and think you know better what’s going on inside the show, what these guys have done, whether it’s a five-year stint with chase wolf or even a period of one year with miles [Burkett]to make that decision,” he said.
Fickell has been to bowl practices, a whistle in tow, senior security Juan Torcho he said, but he’s been in more of an administrative role than any kind of coaching job.
Having him on the sidelines on Tuesday will be “different, obviously,” Torchio said.
“He’s our third head coach of the year,” he said. “I don’t know how many times that has happened in college football.
“You just have to keep going. That’s how the season has been so far.”
Future Fickell players have enjoyed their presence to meet Fickell the person and Fickell the coach.
“It’s great to have him around,” sophomore running back braelon allen said. “Just for him to be here with us and build a relationship with him, see what his coaching style is like, even though he hasn’t really been with running backs or offense that much, he’s just been more of a defensive guy.
“But having him around, being able to build a relationship and a connection, has been great. I’m excited for him to take it all on himself and make it his show.”
Being at practice but not actually training hasn’t been easy, Fickell said.
He’s been taking a lot of notes over the past few weeks, but added that it might be helpful to watch another coach run his team.
“Every practice has been pretty tough,” he said with a smile. “It’s been hard during practice to bite your lip a little bit and keep moving, and then it’s hard, too, because you don’t [know the] jargon. I know the defense, but I don’t know the defense. So, it’s challenging in that sense because you don’t want to spend too much time studying and learning everything because obviously some things are going to change here in a couple of weeks.
“So, all of those things together, it’s been awkward.”