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Luke Fickell will stay out for the Wisconsin bowl

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PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — New Wisconsin Coach Luke Fickell will continue to be around the Badgers in Tuesday night’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, but not as a man in charge, he said Monday.

Fickell plans to be on the sidelines, wearing a helmet and coaching where he can help, but he will continue to let interim head coach Jim Leonhard carry out his duties against Oklahoma State.

“I coach in a way that really allows these guys to handle things the way they’ve handled them,” Fickell said at Badgers media day. And they’ve been great, they’ve shown a lot of maturity about it, Jim’s been awesome.

“I’m kind of a guy who, you know, maybe a bit more of a figurehead and we’ll communicate with these guys in situational situations, but we haven’t changed anything – the way we practice, the way they do a Tuesday practice, a Wednesday practice, a Thursday practice, a Friday practice, how they’re going to do on game day.”

Fickell said his communication during Tuesday night’s game will be “very different” than it normally would be during a game. He will help convey Leonhard’s plan to the team while trying to keep “everything as similar as possible”.

“I think that’s the only chance you have to succeed,” Fickell said.

Fickell, who was hired away from Cincinnati in Nov. 27, made the strategic decision not to take the reins away from Leonhard when he came on board, but he wanted to find a way to be with his new team.

It was a balance he had to find.

“I didn’t want to be that guy that was on the Zoom call while the game was going on, and while the guys on your program and on your team were sweating and working hard and things like that,” he said. Fickell said. And, really, just with the new era of what college football is right now, and how can you really take care of your program and your team and your guys if you’re not around them ? …I mean, if you’re not talking to them these days, someone else is, and I don’t think there’s a way to keep what you’re doing intact unless you constantly be around them and communicate with them.”

Fickell relies on current staff to handle almost everything. He said he was asked who would be the starting quarterback on Tuesday night, but declined to answer.

How arrogant would you be to come in three weeks and think you know better what’s going on within the program, what these guys have been doing, whether it’s a five-year period with hunt the wolf or even a period of one year with Myles [Burkett]to make this decision,” he said.

Fickell has been at bowl practices, a whistle in tow, senior safety John Torchio She said, but it’s been more of an administrative role than any type of coaching job.

Having him on the sidelines on Tuesday will be “different, obviously,” Torchio said.

“He’s our third head coach of the year,” he said. “I don’t know how many times that’s happened in college football.

“You just have to roll with it. That’s how the season has been so far.”

Fickell’s future players loved having him around to get to know Fickell, the person, and Fickell, the coach.

“It’s cool just to have him around,” the second-year running back Braelon Allen said. “Just for him to be here with us and just to build a relationship with him, see what his style of coaching looks like, although he hasn’t really been with running backs or attacking too much, just sort of being more of a defensive guy.

“But just having him around, being able to build a relationship and a connection, that was cool. I’m glad he’s taking it all on and making it his show.”

Being in practice but not really coaching hasn’t been easy, Fickell said.

He’s taken plenty of notes over the past few weeks but added that watching how another manager manages his team could be helpful.

“Every practice was pretty tough,” he said with a laugh. It was hard in training to bite your lip a bit and keep moving and then it’s hard too, because you don’t. [know the] jargon. I know the defense, but I don’t know the defense. So it’s a challenge that way because you don’t want to spend too much time studying and learning everything because obviously some things are going to change here in a few weeks.

So, all of those things together, it’s been uncomfortable.

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