Luke Fickell led Cincinnati to a College Football Playoff. The head coach hopes to do the same at Wisconsin, as it was announced Sunday that Fickell is leaving the Bearcats for the Big Ten.
While Wisconsin fans are excited about the addition, it leaves Cincinnati searching for a new head coach as it joins the Big 12. Cincinnati is an attractive opportunity, as the program has recent success and it’s joining a Power Five league.
The Bearcats could certainly look internally at special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs, defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, or offensive coordinator Gino Guidugli, but I’ll look externally at a few potential replacements for Fickell.
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
Chadwell has spent most of his coaching days in southern states, but he’s one of the best Group of Five coaches in the country. Coastal Carolina is 31-5 the last three seasons under his leadership, and the Chanticleers will represent the Sun Belt East division in the league’s conference championship game this weekend. The Chanticleers have an explosive offense, as the 45-year-old’s scheme often gives defenses fits.
Given his success and age, Chadwell would be a home-run hire for Cincinnati.
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin
Leonhard served as Wisconsin’s interim head coach this season after Paul Chryst was fired. The defensive-minded coach has led the Wisconsin defense since 2017, and the Badgers have been consistently productive defensively, ranking in the top five in total defense nationally four times.
Some believed he would earn the Wisconsin head coaching job rather than Fickell, but with Leonhard now on the market, Cincinnati could be interested. He’s going to be a head coach one day, and he’s only 40 years old.
Jesse Minter, Michigan
Michigan’s defensive coordinator, Minter is the son of former Cincinnati head coach Rick Minter. He spent multiple successful seasons on the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive staff, and he’s considered a rising star in the industry at just 39 years old. Minter would be a solid hire.
Bronco Mendenhall, formerly at Virginia
The former UVA and BYU head coach wants to return to coaching, and while he makes a ton of sense at Colorado, he’s worth considering at Cincinnati. Mendenhall significantly boosts a program’s floor, going 99-36 at BYU and 36-38 at Virginia, including 28-21 in his final four seasons there before taking this year away from football.
He has a defensive background, but Mendenhall surrounded himself with dynamic offense coaches, as Virginia was strong offensively in his final few seasons with the team. With Cincinnati’s resources, Mendenhall could build a Big 12 contender.
Kane Wommack, South Alabama
Look, the Bearcats could look at an Ohio guy like Toledo head coach Jason Candle. He’d be a logical hire from the region, given his 52-32 record with the Rockets. But for this list, I wanted to think outside the box, and Wommack would be a creative hire.
He led South Alabama to 10 wins this season, and he had a few successful seasons on Indiana’s defensive staff, including a stint as defensive coordinator. He played offense during his college playing days, and he has spent time coaching the offense and defense at various colleges. He’s only 35, with an incredibly bright future due to his understanding of all sides of the ball.