Wisconsin football: Early returns on Luke Fickell have been underwhelming

Wisconsin head football coach Luke Fickell is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.Mjs Uwgrid11 3 Jpg Uwgrid11 119281762
Wisconsin head football coach Luke Fickell is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.Mjs Uwgrid11 3 Jpg Uwgrid11 119281762 /

At this juncture, it’s dishearteningly clear that the Wisconsin football team’s recurring errors and inconsistencies under Luke Fickell have shifted from being occasional mishaps to being predictable occurrences.

Game after game, the Badgers commence with sluggish starts, commit untimely penalties, and struggle to withstand pressure. It’s no longer feasible to attribute these issues solely to coincidences or individual errors; the spotlight is now squarely on the coaching staff.

Irrespective of the number of wins the fans and media predicted during the offseason, there’s no denying that Wisconsin’s performance under Coach Fickell has been a substantial disappointment thus far. The recent Indiana loss stands out as the most glaring indictment of this.

Wisconsin football has fallen short of outside expectations under Fickell

Was it unfair to expect the Wisconsin football program, who went 7-6 last season and crawled into bowl eligibility, to rebound and suddenly compete for a Big Ten title? Sure. But I don’t think it was out of line to expect the Badgers to show significant signs of growth compared to last season — while taking advantage of a weak West division.

Either way you slice it, Luke Fickell doesn’t have the Wisconsin Badgers playing better football right now than they were at this time a year ago.

Now sitting at 5-4 on the season and 3-3 in Big Ten play, the Badgers need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

This is year one of a new regime that’s implementing its new schemes — which is worth mentioning. Still, it’s on the coaching staff to evaluate its personnel, make adjustments to accommodate their skill sets better, and put them in the best positions to succeed.

I’m also not a fan of the “wait until they have their guys” crowd. Patience is a virtue that I fully endorse — that’s why I’m not saying this coaching staff is a failure — because that would be an insane overreaction. But the product on the field right now is underwhelming — especially when you consider that the Badgers returned seven starters on defense & nine on offense — plus UW made a few prominent transfer portal additions.

Injuries have absolutely been a factor. I’m not expecting a team that loses its sixth-year starting quarterback and top two running backs, along with one of its top wideouts, to light up the scoreboard. But if we’re being honest, Wisconsin football still had plenty of issues before injuries started piling up.

Final Thoughts

Now that the large portion of my negative rantings are behind me, I’d like to say that despite everything, I believe in Luke Fickell and think it was a no-brainer decision to hire the 2021 National Coach of the Year.

A key source of frustration surrounding the Wisconsin Badgers’ struggles is the impending expansion of the Big Ten conference next season. This expansion complicates the path to becoming a 10+ win program again.

No meaningful conclusions can be drawn about the Wisconsin football program’s future in the first year of a rebuild — because the coaching staff deserves time to implement its systems, develop its players, and build a lasting culture.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t also be disappointed with the product in front of us today…I mean, the Badgers just lost to Indiana…in football.

Next. Wisconsin Building for the Future, Flopped in the Present. dark

For ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinions, and analysis, you can follow Dillon Graff on X @DillonGraff.