Wisconsin could turn to former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel for a sounding board as the Badgers enter their second season under coach Luke Fickell in 2024. Vrabel, a longtime friend of Fickell, has yet to land on his feet since being fired by the Titans on the heels of a second straight losing season in January. That’s opened the door for Vrabel to provide some informal assistance to the Badgers at least during spring football, if not longer, according to Fickell.
“I love Mike and want him around as much as possible,” Fickell told ESPN. “I want to see how much he’d like to be around, in the spring for sure. And we’ll go from there.”
The connection between Vrabel and Fickell goes back to mid-1990s when the two were teammates at Ohio State. They also coached together on the Buckeyes staff from 2011-13 before Vrabel left for the NFL ranks to serve as Houston Texans defensive line coach. Vrabel later became the Titans coach in time for the 2018 season, beginning a tenure that saw him finish 54-45 overall. He coached Tennessee to an AFC Championship Game appearance in 2019 before the team fell to the eventual-Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Getting Vrabel involved would be the latest adjustment in Madison, Wisconsin, after the Badgers struggled in Fickell’s debut season. The 2023 campaign began with optimism following Fickell’s arrival from a Cincinnati program that reached the College Football Playoff under his watch in 2021, but the Badgers stumbled to a 7-6 mark. Wisconsin previously announced in February that it had to serve as Badgers co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
Fickell’s second season at the helm is set to feature sweeping changes across the Big Ten landscape, too, as the league welcomes four new members — USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington — from the Pac-12. The Badgers travel to the Big Ten-newcomer Trojans for their conference opener on Sept. 28, one game after hosting Alabama in a marquee nonconference showdown.