Urban Meyer questions Wisconsin’s decision to overhaul strategy

On3 imageby:Nick Schultz05/05/23


As the coaching carousel spun this offseason, Wisconsin made one of the biggest splashes in the game by luring Luke Fickell away from Cincinnati. His hiring marks a change in strategy for the Badgers, especially on offense after he brought in Phil Longo as offensive coordinator.

That brought about some questions from Urban Meyer, who knows what it’s like to shake up a program.

There are different ways to leave a mark on a program after taking over, Meyer said on Urban’s Take with Lettermen Row’s Tim May. The catch with Wisconsin is the amount of history. The Badgers haven’t finished under .500 since 2001 and have done so just five times since Barry Alvarez took over the program in 1990.

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That tradition is a reason why Meyer wonders what the response will be to how things go under Fickell.

“[What’s] interesting about Wisconsin, you have to ask yourself if it’s really broke,” Meyer said. “That’s the thing. And you go back in the last 25 years, is there a more consistent program than Wisconsin? … That’s a tough one to walk into.”

Of course, Meyer knows Fickell well. Before Meyer took over at Ohio State, Fickell was the interim head coach and stayed on as defensive coordinator before leaving for Cincinnati.

They stay in touch, which is why Meyer offered some advice as Fickell took over in Madison from his time as a head coach.

“I always tell him this. When you take over an organization, you either take a fire hose to it, you take a garden hose to it or you just clean it up a little bit,” Meyer said. “I went to Bowling Green, that was a fire hose. They were 1-11, 2-9, something like that. You go to Utah, it’s a garden hose. You go to Florida, it’s just clean it up. Certainly at Ohio State, it wasn’t broken. You just had to maybe change it your way a little bit.”

The scheme is also changing in a big way under Fickell and Longo. Remember, Longo ran an “Air Raid” system at Ole Miss and North Carolina over the last few seasons. Wisconsin is known for the ground-and-pound style of offense Paul Chryst embodied before his firing last season.

Meyer isn’t sure Longo can run a full-on “Air Raid” yet. But longtime Wisconsin fans are sure to notice a change. That’s why the response from the fan base will be interesting.

“Luke has got a tough job,” Meyer said. “He already changed the offense. He brought in a really good coach. What do you go? Do you go completely Air Raid? I don’t think you can. I think in the minutes — which of course, they’ll lose a game or something — you’re gonna have that old guard saying this is the way we’ve done it. Luke’s got to win the players, but he’s also got to spread himself around that very tradition-rich place in Madison.”