Cody Cousino / Photo editor
The Luke Fickell era has officially begun at Ohio State.
Fickell was introduced to the media on Monday at the Fawcett Center on OSU’s campus, and said he is focused on the future of the football program.
“I can’t tell you how humbled and honored I am to stand here as the head coach of the Ohio State University,” he said. “The 2011 Buckeyes will not be about comparing and contrasting what we did before.”
Fickell, a defensive lineman for the Buckeyes from 1993-96, addressed matters involving the program’s recent past at the outset of his introduction. He said he was not aware of the NCAA violations that led to the resignation of former coach Jim Tressel before the public.
“I’m going to be honest … I was not informed of any information until it became public knowledge,” Fickell said.
Fickell also said he is hurt by the current state of the OSU program.
“I’m a Buckeye through and through,” Fickell said. “And, yes, it hurts at times, but we all understand the situation and the most important thing for us right now is to focus on the things which we can control. We need to focus on what we have and not what we’ve lost. I’m not saying I’m not disappointed, not upset, but, again, we’re moving forward.”
Fickell said he spoke with Tressel on the night of his resignation. Tressel told Fickell to be himself as the next coach of OSU.
As for former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who decided last week to forgo his senior season at OSU, Fickell said the two have not spoken, although Pryor had reached out to the new coach.
“I have had no interaction with Terrelle Pryor as of Tuesday night at our team workout,” Fickell said.
Fickell repeatedly emphasized areas that the program will focus on this season: respect, toughness and being men of action.
“It will be about us being as one, playing as a team and a family with the selfless, all-in mentality,” Fickell said.
Fickell said he will be more involved with the defensive team, but said he does not want the offensive players to get less attention.
“I’ve got the utmost confidence in the offensive staff and coach Bollman is the offensive coordinator,” Fickell said. “I just want to make sure that they understand, more so for the kids that I care and I have a presence and I care what’s going on with them. I’m not just a defensive guy, I’m not just working with the linebackers, I’m here for everybody.”
Former Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter said he thinks Fickell has been ready to be a head coach for three or four years.
“I believe he’s going to be successful at it and hopefully the entire Ohio State family believes that because that’s why they put him in there,” Carpenter said. “That’s why he’s in the situation he’s in, because he knows what it takes to be here and he knows what it takes to have success at Ohio State.”
Carpenter said he thinks Fickell’s intensity makes all his players better.
“He was a difficult coach to play for as a positions coach because he’s very demanding, but I felt I improved dramatically under him,” Carpenter said.
Mike Vrabel, Fickell’s former teammate at OSU, attended the press conference to support Fickell, who was the best man in Vrabel’s wedding. Vrabel would not answer questions regarding the NCAA investigation. He said he thought OSU chose the right person for the job.
“They got the right guy and I’m happy for him,” Vrabel said. “I’m proud of him and I’m happy for Ohio State football.”
Fickell said he does not see the offensive game plan changing much with Tressel’s departure as offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will call all the plays.
“We are going to play to our strengths,” Fickell said. “That’s what we do each and every year. It’s not much different defensively. If we have three tailbacks, maybe three tailbacks will be out there. We all know that we’re going to play to our strengths and we’ll find out what those strengths are come fall camp.”
Fickell concluded the press conference by stating the ways he believes the Buckeyes will be successful this season.
“We will have a goal this year to lead the nation in three categories: effort, turnovers and toughness,” Fickell said. “We believe this will be the formula for success and moving forward and planning for the future here at Ohio State.”
When Tressel was hired in 2001, he declared that his team would be ready for rival Michigan. On Monday, Fickell also said Michigan is not just another game.
“Our guys will know about Nov. 26,” he said. “I promise you that.”
OSU athletic director Gene Smith announced that Fickell’s salary for the 2011 season is $775,000. As linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, Fickell earned $250,000 in 2010.
Fickell said OSU is looking into hiring a new coach to fill his old spot on the staff. He said the new coach will definitely be a defensive coach.
Fickell will lead the Buckeyes into action for the first time Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium against the Akron Zips.