Luke Fickell is the new head coach at Cincinnati, largely because he was the most obvious candidate available.
A lifelong Buckeye, Fickell served as a top lieutenant of the two most important figures in Ohio’s football hierarchy over the past 15 years in Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. He’s also a respected recruiter and defensive mind, something the Bearcats found particularly attractive considering the variety of offenses the American asks its members to defend.
Fickell was always the favorite here. He passed the eye test with flying colors, one might say. But what helped push his candidacy over the top was a computer algorithm that spit out Fickell as the top choice available.
According to Brandon Sosna, Bohn’s chief of staff, a simulation on each candidate starting with the personnel on the current UC roster was run 100,000 times to produce a four-year projection of how the team would perform.
“There are a few characteristics of coaches that are consistent no matter where they go or what they do,” Sosna said. “Things like turnover margin tend to follow coaches. Penalties per game tends to follow coaches, and tempo. You’re either an up-tempo coach or you slow down but you don’t tend to change over time.”
Naturally, since Fickell is a defensive coach, “We were able to assess the defense a lot better than we would his offense,” Sosna said. “But there were some core assumptions based on what we knew we could assess, that we would be running a version of an up-tempo spread offense.”
The computer analysis projected UC’s win-loss record, points for and against, and where the Bearcats would finish in conference play based on what is currently known about UC’s schedules during the next four years. Sosna said Fickell gave the Bearcats their best chance over a four-year period to win a conference championship at about an 80 percent probability.
I have to admit I’ve never heard of the computer simulation being factored into a coaching search before. It would be very interesting to see what went into the simulation to produce the conclusion that it did.