Cincinnati's Luke Fickell turns down Michigan State football coaching job

Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell will not be Michigan State's next head coach. 

Fickell has decided to stay with the Bearcats, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports was first to report the news. 

Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman and members of the MSU search party interviewed Fickell in Cincinnati on Sunday, but they returned to Capital Region International Airport in Lansing without a new head coach

Ohio State coach Luke Fickell speaks to reporters during photo day Sunday, Aug 21, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio.

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According to sources, Fickell decided to stay after having conversations with new Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham on Monday morning. It wasn't immediately clear whether Fickell ever received an offer from MSU. 

On Monday morning, Fickell tweeted: "Looking forward to more of this in 2020!"

Fickell, 46, was immediately seen as the front-runner to replace Mark Dantonio upon Dantonio's abrupt retirement on Feb. 4, sources have told the Free Press.

He is 32-20 overall in four seasons as a head coach, the past three with the Bearcats. He has led them to a 26-13 record, including back-to-back 11-win seasons and victories over Power 5 opponents Virginia Tech and Boston College in bowl games the past two years.

Fickell worked with Dantonio at Ohio State and was part of the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship coaching staff as the special teams assistant, with Dantonio as defensive coordinator.

MSU's search committee met Monday morning to discuss next steps, sources said, and the board of trustees will be briefed tonight as previously scheduled. The  board of trustees is responsible for voting to approve any hire.

"Spartan Nation, I know how passionate you are and I love you for it,"  MSU board of trustees member Brian Mosallam tweeted Sunday night. "Let's pause and take a collective deep breath. Good night and Go Green!"

Former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has 'definite' interest in the MSU job, a source with knowledge of Bielema's thinking told the Free Press on Monday. It wasn't immediately clear whether Bielema would be interviewed. 

Colorado coach Mel Tucker was expected to be interviewed over the weekend, and on Saturday he tweeted that he was staying with the Buffaloes for a second year. 

The initial candidate pool also included Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, University of Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi and even Mike Tressel, who was named MSU interim head coach when Dantonio retired Tuesday.

MSU reportedly requested an interview with Saleh, but sources told the NFL Network last week that he planned to stay in San Francisco.

Narduzzi, 53, tried to squash his connection to the search on Wednesday, saying, "I’m here at Pitt. And I want to be here at Pitt. And that’s where I’m gonna be. Pretty simple." He spent three seasons at Cincinnati and eight years at MSU as Dantonio’s defensive coordinator before arriving at Pitt, where he has a 36-29 record entering his sixth season.

MSU also contacted Iowa State's Matt Campbell and was turned down, according to the Des Moines Register. 

MSU has hired Glenn Sugiyama, a managing partner and global sports practice leader for DHR International in Chicago, to help guide its search. Sugiyama is an MSU alum.