DALLAS – Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has taken the Bearcats to unmatched feats this season, qualifying for the College Football Playoff as the nation’s only undefeated team (13-0) and the first so-called ‘Group of 5’ program to do so while winning a second straight American Athletic Conference championship. For those achievements, Fickell has been named the recipient of the 2021 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Fickell is a first-time winner of the Eddie Robinson Award in his second straight season as a finalist. He is Cincinnati’s first winner of the award as well and the second coach from the American Athletic Conference to win the honor. He was selected from voting by the entire FWAA membership from a record field of 12 other finalists from all 10 FBS conferences and independent programs. Then-head coach Brian Kelly was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award at Cincinnati in 2009.
The other finalists were Blake Anderson of Utah State, Dave Aranda of Baylor, Thomas Hammock of NIU, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan, Billy Napier of Louisiana, Pat Narduzzi of Pitt, Nick Saban of Alabama, Kalani Sitake of BYU, Kirby Smart of Georgia, Jeff Traylor of UTSA, Mel Tucker of Michigan State, and Kyle Whittingham of Utah.
Fickell will receive the iconic bust of the late Eddie Robinson, a College Football Hall of Fame coach at Grambling State University for 55 years and winner of 408 career games, at a Jan. 8, 2022, reception in Indianapolis prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Prior to that, Fickell’s No. 4 Bearcats will face top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 31 for a berth in the national championship game.
“On behalf of the Sugar Bowl Committee, I want to congratulate Luke Fickell on an outstanding season,” said Ralph Capitelli, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “His accomplishments speak for themselves – the only undefeated team in the country, a conference championship and Cincinnati’s first trip to the College Football Playoff. More importantly, he’s conducted himself with class and demonstrated great sportsmanship throughout his career. He’s truly deserving of an award named for Louisiana’s own Coach Robinson.”
“The Eddie Robinson Family congratulates Luke Fickell and the University of Cincinnati football program on their historic 2021 season, and especially for winning this year’s ‘Eddie’ Award,” said Eddie Robinson III, coach Eddie Robinson’s grandson.
In a season of anticipation to see if the Bearcats could duplicate their banner 2020 results, Fickell led Cincinnati to a 13-0 mark as it heads into the CFP Semifinals headlined by a win at No. 5 Notre Dame that cemented the Bearcats’ place among the national title contenders. Cincinnati then maintained that standard as one of only two teams that list in the Top 10 in the FBS in scoring offense (8th at 39.2 ppg) and scoring defense (t-4th at 16.1) which aided another undefeated run through the American Athletic Conference with 12 All-AAC first-team selections.
Fickell is in his fifth season at Cincinnati and won the AAC’s Coach of the Year this season for a third time within the last four years. He is 47-14 at Cincinnati, including a 43-6 mark since the start of the 2018 season. Only a final-seconds loss to Georgia in last season’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl kept Cincinnati from back-to-back undefeated seasons going into this year’s postseason.
“I’m truly honored to receive this award. To be mentioned with one of the all-time greats in Eddie Robinson, who did so much for this profession, is humbling,” Fickell said. “I got into coaching because of the impact my coaches had on me when I was growing up, and my goal is to have a positive impact on my players. Any awards we receive are a credit to the success of our team as a whole and the hard work put in by all of our student-athletes.”
“It’s quite fitting that Cincinnati’s historic season is decorated with an honor for the coach who guided them through it,” said FWAA president Heather Dinich, a senior writer for ESPN.com. “To finish with a perfect 13-0 record speaks volumes about the program, the buy-in, and the discipline it takes to get there – and it all starts at the top. Congratulations to Luke Fickell.”
Fickell has guided Cincinnati to the highest rankings in school history as well. UC has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls earlier this fall and its current No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings is the highest ever by a non-Power 5 school.
The Eddie Robinson Award is the second of two FWAA postseason honors won by Cincinnati this season. Standout cornerback Ahmad Gardner became Cincinnati’s first two-time FWAA All-American this season with only UC’s sixth all-time All-America honor. The AAC’s only other Eddie Robinson Award winner was UCF’s then-head coach Scott Frost in 2017.
The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. Beginning in 1997, the FWAA Coach of the Year Award has been named in honor of the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.
Robinson, who passed away in 2007, won 70.7 percent of his games during his illustrious career. Robinson’s teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships after joining the league in 1959. His Tigers won nine Black College Football Championships during his career spent all at the same school.
The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org and @NCFAA on Twitter to learn more about the association.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 99 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 19 Heisman Trophy winners in its 87-year history. The 88th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic is scheduled to be played on Jan. 1, 2022 between Baylor and Ole Miss. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.7 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit AllstateSugarBowl.org.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021 Eddie Robinson Award
• Thirteen finalists named for 2021 Eddie Robinson Award
• Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award | All-time winners