Luke Fickell was a shocking hire for the Wisconsin Badgers in November, who shied away from their roots to select a profound name to lead their program after a disappointing 6-6 season in 2022.
Within the first few months of his stay in Madison, Fickell has changed the outlook of the program, hiring many high-profile assistants, while landing several valuable transfers at positions of need, which created an extremely positive aura around the Badgers as they transitioned into a new era.
Fickell’s mantra has been the urge for competitiveness and a certain style of coaching, but before those realizations arrived, there was a key for the head coach that paved the way he approached his job: the understanding of unity, not only with players, but with his coaching staff, even if he was the figurehead of a program.
After Wisconsin’s first spring practice, Fickell elaborated on his coaching style, as well as his fellow staff members, and why exactly they're vital to his success.
“At least for me, you can’t do this by yourself. These programs, it’s so much about all the people that are around you that is so critical. They’re a big part of it, whether it’s on the field or not,” Fickell said.
Be it at Cincinnati or in Madison, Fickell’s approach has always related to culture, which has nurtured some of the relationships he’s created with his coaching staff, given the similar mentality in the room.
“I think everything that we do has kind of the culture of the program behind it. So it starts with their ability to buy into the effort in which we do things, the attitude in which we do them, and the energy we have,” Fickell shared. “So by nature, that’s kind of where they started: with their guys with great attitudes, great effort, and incredible energy.”
Several of Wisconsin’s coaches have been highlighted via press conferences, but there are two premier faces that do a significant amount of work behind the scenes, especially in recruiting: Pat Lambert and Max Stienecker, who are the Director of Recruiting and Player Personnel, respectively.
While they're currently in off-the-field roles, Fickell shared how the connection is more-so about the people he’s around, rather than the role itself, adding that the dynamic duo would be in some other role, should they not be recruiters.
“Having been around them for the last five years, even six years, I think maybe with Pat, and Max, maybe [five]. I mean, they’ve gone about every role within our program, from [Graduate Assistants] to quality controls,” Fickell said. “Coaching on the field, they’re just the guys you know you want with you no matter where you go. If they weren’t in the recruiting department, they would be a coach or they’d be a quality control. They’d be somewhere in our program.”
Throughout the offseason, Fickell and his staff have shared the mantra of building everything around culture, and the unity between them has clearly been seen thus far, although on-field results will truly dictate the overall success of the coaching hires.
The importance of having a team around him has allowed Fickell to build one of the stronger and more-respected coaching staffs, which includes the strength and conditioning department, spearheaded by longtime assistant Brady Collins.
That message of unity has been important in Fickell’s career, and should continue to pay off during his time in Madison.