Cincinnati Bearcats coach Luke Fickell on Notre Dame vacancy: 'There is no speculation'

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Luke Fickell isn't focused on the head coaching vacancy at Notre Dame. Not yet at least.

The University of Cincinnati football coach, who has been linked to the Fighting Irish job since Brian Kelly left South Bend to take over the LSU program, said Tuesday his only focus is on Saturday's American Athletic Conference championship game against Houston at Nippert Stadium.

"There is no speculation," Fickell said. "Is the job open? I guess it is. But I wouldn't know if somebody didn't tell me. It's the same way I am with rankings. It's the same way I am with unfortunately a lot of other things, with the exception of recruiting, I don't pay a whole lot of attention."

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The 48-year-old coach, who is 47-14 in five seasons at Cincinnati, has the Bearcats (12-0, 8-0 AAC) one win from likely being the first non-Power Five school to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati, which is No. 4 in the latest CFP rankings, looks to capture its second straight AAC championship with a win Saturday against the Cougars (11-1, 8-0).

Last August, he signed a contract extension taking him through 2026. His $3.4 million salary is the second-highest paid non-Power Five coach behind Houston's Dana Holgorsen ($4 million) and ranks him among the top 40 coaches in college football.

Injured Cincinnati Bearcats starting quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) hugs head coach Luke Fickell after the fourth quarter of the Military Bowl at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. The Bearcats took home the Military Bowl trophy and complete the team's third-ever 11-win season.
Injured Cincinnati Bearcats starting quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) hugs head coach Luke Fickell after the fourth quarter of the Military Bowl at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. The Bearcats took home the Military Bowl trophy and complete the team's third-ever 11-win season.

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Cincinnati senior quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was named the Most Outstanding Player in last season's AAC title game, all but echoed Fickell's words when asked about his head coach.

"We're just focused on the game on Saturday," Ridder said. "That's all his attention's on, so that's all our attention's on. ... We all know Coach Fick loves us at the end of the day. His decision is his decision. But like I said, we're focused on Saturday."

Fickell has led Cincinnati to a No. 3 ranking in the AP poll and a No. 4 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA coaches poll. The Bearcats were ranked No. 2 in both polls earlier this season.

Fickell guided the Bearcats to a 24-13 win at Notre Dame on Oct. 2. It remains the only double-digit road victory over a CFP top-10 team this season. The Irish are ranked No. 6 in the latest CFP rankings.

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Marcus Freeman, Fickell's longtime defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, left Fickell to take over Kelly's defense at Notre Dame last offseason.

Cincinnati is 21-1 since the start of the 2020 season, with the Bearcats' only loss being a 24-21 defeat to Georgia in the 2020 Peach Bowl.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman looks at Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly as he talks to an official during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman looks at Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly as he talks to an official during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

Fickell, a Columbus native, became the 42nd head coach in Cincinnati history in December 2016 after serving as an assistant for 15-plus years at his alma mater, Ohio State.

Fickell and his wife, Amy, have six kids. Their oldest son, Landon, is a freshman offensive lineman on the Cincinnati football team.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Bearcats' Luke Fickell on Notre Dame: 'There is no speculation'

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