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Luke Fickell Has Big Shoes to Fill in First Year at Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin shocked the college football world on Sunday, naming Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell as the successor to Paul Chryst in Madison.

Fickell moves into the Big Ten after going 57-18 across six seasons with the Bearcats and leading Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff in 2022.

He became the first non-Power Five coach to lead a team into the four-team playoff, falling to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 27-6, in the semifinal round.  

Now, Fickell becomes the fourth head coach to lead the Badgers since Barry Alvarez’s retirement in 2005.  

There’s no doubt the former Cincinnati coach will look to match the success of his predecessors, with Chryst (.720 winning percentage), Gary Andersen (.731 winning percentage), and Brett Bielema (.739 winning percentage) all finding steady success at Camp Randall Stadium.

USBettingReport.com stacked up the combined first season winning percentages of the Badgers’ previous three head coaches (Chryst, Andersen and Bielema) to determine what fans can expect from Fickell in 2023 and to give some insight into your online sports betting.

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Last 3 Wisconsin Head Coaches in First Season

Aver. Record Win % Aver. Conf. Record Conf. Win % Aver. Season-Ending AP Rank
10-3* .795 6-2* .792 17th*
* — Rounded to nearest whole number.

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New Badgers Coaches Win Big Early 

It’s safe to say the learning curve for Wisconsin’s three previous head coaches hasn’t been too steep, as all three have won early and often in Madison.

Of the three coaches, Andersen had the least amount of success in Year 1, going 9-4 and leading Wisconsin to the Capital One Bowl in 2013.

Both Chryst (10-3 in 2015) and Bielema (12-1 in 2006) had double-digit win seasons in their first campaigns with the Badgers, with Bielema guiding Wisconsin to a 17-14 Capital One Bowl victory over No. 12 Arkansas, while Chryst beat the USC Trojans, 23-21, in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

None of the three coaches lost more than two Big Ten games during their first season, with Andersen and Chryst going 6-2, while Bielema went 7-1.

The Badgers’ previous three head coaches averaged a .792 winning percentage in Big Ten play and averaged out to the 17th spot in the Associated Press poll at season’s end during their first seasons.

Whether Fickell or interim coach Jim Leonhard are on the sidelines when the 6-6 Badgers play in their bowl game this season hasn’t been announced.

Either way, the stakes will be high once Fickell assumes control of the Wisconsin program this offseason, as he looks to get the Badgers back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2019 and to the CFP for the first time in school history.

If Fickell’s able to match his .760 winning percentage at Cincinnati, he’d rank third on Wisconsin’s all-time coaching leaderboard, behind Phil King (.851 between 1896 and 1905) and Charles Hutchins (.850 between 1906 and 1907), and ahead of George Little (.750 between 1925 and 1926), Bielema (.739), John Richards (.738 between 1911 and 1922), Andersen (.731), and Chryst (.720).

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