Things have gone from bad to worse for the Michigan State Spartans football team. The program is still without a head coach after Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell reportedly passed on the opportunity.
Less than a week after the announcement that Mark Dantonio was retiring, the Spartans focus appeared to turn toward Fickell. Like Dantonio, Fickell had a history in the Big Ten and found success at Cincinnati. Reports surfaced over the weekend that Bill Beekman traveled to Cincinnati to interview Fickell, but returned without the head coach in place.
Early Monday morning, the explanation became clear. Fickell was staying put and MSU was starting its search again.
Sources: Luke Fickell has decided to stay at Cincinnati. After interviewing for Michigan State on Sunday and talking it over with his family, he elected to stay put.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 10, 2020
Fickell was, without question, Michigan State’s top choice. The timing of Dantonio’s announcement had already put the Spartans in a tough spot, with a limited selection still available. However, Fickell appeared to be the perfect fit.
The decision to stay with Cincinnati likely says as much about the situation in East Lansing as anything else. Fickell’s decision is likely a result of one of two reasons – either the MSU football program is in an even worse spot than most believe going forward, or Beekman and the Board of Trustees failed to make a big enough offer. Both of those options are disastrous for the program.
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done if it’s the former. If the program is in such bad shape that a raise and a step up to a bigger program can’t convince an up-and-coming coach, there is nothing that can really be done that will take less than a few years to fix.
If it’s the latter, the whole university should be embarrassed.
Making things worse, Fickell isn’t the only coach that has already turned down the job. MSU had an interview request turned down by San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Former MSU defensive coordinator and current Pitt Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi also appeared to pass on the job, although reading between the lines, it does sound like there may still be a possibility there.
“It’s my ultimate goal to be here at PItt,” Narduzzi said at his signing day press conference, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I can’t address what’s going on up there [at Michigan State]. I want to be here at Pitt. I came here to get a job done and we’re going to continue to move forward. We couldn’t e in a better situation here at the University of Pittsburgh.”
That leaves the Spartans likely without three of what was probably their top five options, including the first choice.
With that said, there are still options available that are intriguing, even if they aren’t the big splash fans had hoped for. Iowa State’s head coach Matt Campbell has been rumored, as has Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
More familiar names to Big Ten fans include Indiana head coach Tom Allen, although it’s tough to see how much of an immediate improvement it would be for Allen, and former Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema,
Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, the Spartans are in a worse spot now than they were 24 hours ago. That may change, it’s possible the new head coach will be the right fit and turn things around. However, it’s getting harder and harder to remain optimistic about the coming season.