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Luke Fickell tells Michigan State he’s staying at Cincinnati

Fickell has rebuilt Cincinnati into a Top 25 program in his three seasons.
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell watches players get ready for the team's NCAA college football game against UCLA on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Cincinnati. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Coach Luke Fickell informed Michigan State on Monday that he’s decided to stay at Cincinnati, leaving the Spartans to resume their search to find Mark Dantonio’s replacement.

Fickell has rebuilt Cincinnati into a Top 25 program in his three seasons. Dantonio, who stepped down from the job this month, also coached at Cincinnati.

After considering the Michigan State job over the weekend, Fickell announced he was staying because his family is comfortable in Cincinnati.

“I know at some point in time things always come to an end, whether they get rid of you, kids leave — there’s all kinds of things,” Fickell said in a video posted on the team’s website. “But the bottom line is first and foremost family. Obviously my family loves it here.”

Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman focused on Fickell with the advice of Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo, who was also part of the search that landed Dantonio from Cincinnati.

Fickell has led the Bearcats back into the national spotlight. They were in the Top 25 most of last season, going 11-3 with a 38-6 victory over Boston College in the Birmingham Bowl.

The Bearcats lost their final game of the regular season at Memphis 34-24, then returned to Memphis for the American Athletic championship game and lost again, 29-24.

Replacing Dantonio is the biggest decision so far for Beekman. He replaced Mark Hollis, who retired early in 2018 amid the fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State sports doctor who also worked for USA Gymnastics.

The Spartans lost their all-time winningest coach when Dantonio unexpectedly announced his retirement on Feb. 4. He went 114-57 over 13 years, with three Big Ten titles and a College Football Playoff in a six-season span from 2010 to 2015. Michigan State slipped to 7-6 each of the past two seasons.