Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell finalizes contract extension through 2026

Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell has finalized a contract extension through the 2026 season that will increase his salary to $3.4 million annually.

The school's board of trustees unanimously approved Fickell's new agreement at its meeting Tuesday morning. Fickell, who is 22-5 the past two seasons and 26-13 overall at Cincinnati, previously was signed through 2022 and made $2.3 million in 2019.

The new agreement, obtained by ESPN, contains a bonus structure that will pay Fickell $250,000 if Cincinnati reaches a New Year's Six bowl or the College Football Playoff, and includes $50,000 bonuses for a top-25 finish, a regular-season AAC title and an AAC championship game victory.

Cincinnati used private donations and fundraising to finance the new contract for Fickell, which also increases the salary pool for assistant coaches and support staff to $3.85 million.

Cincinnati on Monday made its first-ever appearance in The Associated Press preseason top 25 poll, checking in at No. 20.

Michigan State targeted Fickell, 47, for its coaching vacancy in February but could not reach an agreement and eventually hired Mel Tucker.

Fickell's new agreement includes a $4 million buyout if he were to leave Cincinnati before Jan. 1, 2021. The buyout drops by $500,000 in each subsequent year of the deal. Cincinnati would owe Fickell $23.8 million if it terminates him without cause before Jan. 1, 2021, with the amount decreasing each of the next three years by $3.4 million.