5 questions with UC head football coach Luke Fickell

University of Cincinnati Bearcats head football coach Luke Fickell is the featured speaker today at a luncheon that immediately precedes the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance’s annual Regional Business Expo.

We caught up with Fickell, an experienced 18-year coaching veteran named the American Football Coaches Association assistant coach of the year in 2010, to ask him some questions about leadership, developing talent and selling UC to recruits.

Q: What is your philosophy of coaching and how can anyone running a business enterprise or any such endeavor learn from that?

A: "The number one thing is be aggressive in everything we do. You see too often (an attitude of) 'We can get that done in two weeks.' Well, why can't we get it done tomorrow? … We're looking for those guys who are constantly trying to become better and don't use time as something that can hold them back."

Q: You’re known for developing talent capable of going to the NFL. What traits do you look for in a high school player in terms of what will make them successful at the college level and beyond?

A: "The number one thing we're looking for is a guy who's got passion for what he's doing. Everybody would say … 'Well, how tall is he? How fast does he run? What's he do in this? What's he do in that?' Those are the things that are easy to find because they're measurable, they're tangible stuff … but can you really find the guy that has the passion and the love for what it is that they're doing because they can't fake that, you can't hide that."

“That’s what ultimately gives them the ability to maximize their potential. I think that, and then their ability to handle work. Everybody’s got a different work capacity and the one’s that are most successful are the ones that have that have an incredible work capacity.

“The other thing is, you find those guys that are competitors. Whether you’re in business, whatever you’re developing, competitors are the guys … who go above and beyond.”

Q: What’s the most challenging obstacle of your life and how did you conquer it and learn from it as well?

A: "Being able to handle defeat, I think is something that is probably the greatest thing that sports can teach you. I've got a bunch of kids myself and too often we want to pick them up and never let them fall … and the reality is you learn so much more from losing, you learn so much more from your failures, as long as they don't crush you and keep you down.

“To fall short of something that you dreamed and had planned for for so long, the ability to pick yourself back up and make you a lot better because of it has been something I’d say ultimately has changed how I go about everything in my life.”

Q: What coach or teacher was the biggest influence on your life and why or how?

A: "It's hard to say that there's one. I'd say as a youth, besides my family, my uncle is a wrestling coach. (He) had the greatest effect on me and the ability to never be satisfied and to always push and want for more.

“Jim Tressel is one of those guys that, once I changed fields into coaching, had an incredible amount of effect on me as anybody just with how you do business … how you handle people, how you treat people. Being around him for 10 years made me not only a better coach but a better husband, a better father, as well.”

Q: If a player is trying to decide between another major college and UC, what’s your pitch to swing them toward the Bearcats?

A: "We've got an incredible amount of great things to offer, but I think that one of the greatest things we have to offer is people and the true belief in young men — every guy that we hire on the staff, that that's what they believe. If they don't see their guys and their unit guys and the guys that play for them as their own kids, then I think that we're in the wrong field.

“Everybody looks at this college stuff now as a business because that’s how we’re evaluated, by wins and losses, but the reality is, it’s not a business. It’s still about growing 18- to 22-year olds and having an effect on every part of their life.”

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WHAT: West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance's "Taste of West Chester and Liberty Townships" luncheon

WHEN & WHERE: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 9; Skatetown USA, 8730 North Pavilion Dr., West Chester Twp.

GUEST SPEAKER: Luke Fickell, UC Bearcats head football coach

COST: $32 members. $40 non-member.

WHAT: West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance's annual Regional Business Expo

WHEN & WHERE: 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 9; Skatetown USA, 8730 North Pavilion Dr., West Chester Twp.

COST: Free admission for those who bring a business card

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