Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell will not be Michigan State’s next head coach.
Fickell has decided to stay with the Bearcats, multiple people with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press.
Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman and members of the school’s search party interviewed Fickell in Cincinnati on Sunday, but they returned without a new head coach.
According to people with knowledge of the process, Fickell decided to stay after speaking with new Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham on Monday morning. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Fickell ever received an offer from Michigan State.
On Monday morning, Fickell tweeted: “Looking forward to more of this in 2020!”
Fickell, 46, was immediately seen as the front-runner to replace Mark Dantonio upon Dantonio’s abrupt retirement on Feb. 4.
He is 32-20 overall in four seasons as a head coach, the past three with the Bearcats. He has led them to a 26-13 record, including back-to-back 11-win seasons and victories over Power Five opponents Virginia Tech and Boston College in bowl games the past two years.
Fickell worked with Dantonio at Ohio State and was part of the Buckeyes coaching staff as the special teams assistant, with Dantonio as defensive coordinator, when the school won the 2002 national championship.
Michigan State’s search committee met Monday morning to discuss next steps, people said, and the board of trustees will be briefed Monday night as previously scheduled. The board of trustees is responsible for voting to approve any hire.
“Spartan Nation, I know how passionate you are and I love you for it,” Michigan State board of trustees member Brian Mosallam tweeted Sunday night. “Let’s pause and take a collective deep breath. Good night and Go Green!”
Former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has ‘definite’ interest in the Michigan State job, a person with knowledge of Bielema’s thinking told the Free Press on Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Bielema would be interviewed.
Colorado coach Mel Tucker was expected to be interviewed over the weekend, and on Saturday he tweeted that he was staying with the Buffaloes for a second year.
The initial candidate pool also included Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, University of Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi and even Mike Tressel, who was named Michigan State interim head coach when Dantonio retired Tuesday.
Michigan State reportedly requested an interview with Saleh, but sources told the NFL Network last week that he planned to stay in San Francisco.
Narduzzi, 53, tried to squash his connection to the search on Wednesday, saying, “I’m here at Pitt. And I want to be here at Pitt. And that’s where I’m gonna be. Pretty simple.” He spent three seasons at Cincinnati and eight years at Michigan State as Dantonio’s defensive coordinator before arriving at Pitt, where he has a 36-29 record entering his sixth season.
Michigan State also contacted Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and was turned down, according to the Des Moines Register.
Michigan State has hired Glenn Sugiyama, a managing partner and global sports practice leader for DHR International in Chicago, to help guide its search. Sugiyama is an Michigan State alum.