Luke Fickell is one of the few people on the planet who can relate to Matt Luke.
On May 29, 2011, Fickell was the 37-year-old offensive coordinator of Ohio State. On May 30, 2011, he was the head coach of Ohio State, an elite program who owned six-straight outright or shared Big Ten championships and was five months removed from a 12-win season.
Fickell was thrust into the job after Jim Tressel resigned during an NCAA investigation into the program's infamous tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal. Though Fickell — a Columbus native, former Buckeye defensive lineman and longtime assistant coach — was an appropriate choice for interim coach, he admits he wasn't ready and recommend Matt Luke takes a different approach at Ole Miss after replacing Hugh Freeze.
"Don't do what I did, because it didn't go as well," the first-year Cincinnati head coach said on a conference call on Monday.
Fickell led the Buckeyes to a 6-7 mark, their first sub-.500 season since 1966, seven years before he was born. He was replaced by Urban Meyer after the season.
"I think It still comes down to being yourself. . . . I tried to take over in a short amount of time and say 'I'm going to try make as similar as I possibly can," he added. "And that was probably the worst thing I could've done, because I couldn't be consistent as a leader every single day — in my case, trying to be as much like Jim Tressel as much as I possibly could."
Including the 12-win 2010 season that was later vacated, Tressel went 106-22 in 10 seasons as head coach. He won at least 10 games eight times, including a 14-0 mark and national championship in 2002.
"You're not going to be able to change who you are or what you're doing on a weekly basis based on the emotions of things," said Fickell, who returned to his defensive coordinator post in 2012 and remained there until last December. "And then you got to realize that outside of football this is going to take a toll emotionally on your football team and you got to have a plan for that. And I thought we did.
"We had to be really, really good early in the year because at that time I said it's going to hit our guys late in the year and they're going to be drained emotionally because of all the stuff flying around us. I was right; we didn't handle it great but I was right."
Matt Luke isn't replacing a title-winning coach with an .828 career winning percentage, but, like Fickell, is still taking over his beloved alma mater — in his home state and where he was a longtime assistant — that's reeling from a sudden change in leadership.