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North Carolina losing offensive assistants Longo, Bicknell to Wisconsin

NCAA Football: Miami at North Carolina

Oct 16, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) with offensive coordinator Phil Longo after running for a touchdown in the third quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina is losing two assistants to Wisconsin, including the one who has orchestrated the Tar Heels’ prolific attack the past four seasons.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Phil Longo said he and offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. leave Chapel Hill for the same roles under new Badgers coach Luke Fickell.

Neither will coach when UNC (9-4) faces No. 15 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28. Longo said his opportunity to work with Fickell - a friend for several years - was enticing.

“My wife and I love (UNC), the kids love it. It’s good coaching for (Mack) Brown. We’ve got a good staff and I absolutely love the locker room,” Longo said in an interview with The Associated Press. “So there’s no issues. It’s very, very difficult leaving here.

“We just felt like this was the right time,” he continued. “That’s what we decided to do, was take our shot in the Big Ten.”

Wisconsin team spokesman Brian Lucas declined to comment in an email, saying the program has yet to officially announce any staff hirings.

Longo said he first met with Fickell about joining his new staff at Cincinnati for the 2017 season before ultimately going to Mississippi. Longo spent two years there before joining Brown when the College Football Hall of Famer returned for a second stint at UNC before the 2019 season.

“I often felt I wouldn’t leave North Carolina for anything other than a head job unless it was for Luke, so that kind of presented itself when we spoke,” he said.

Longo’s first three offenses averaged 492 yards and 36.5 points behind quarterback Sam Howell, the program’s all-time leader with 10,283 yards passing and 92 touchdowns.

This year’s Tar Heels average 473.6 yards and 35 points with Drake Maye as Howell’s successor. He ranked among the Bowl Subdivision leaders in total offense (366.8, second), passing yardage (316.5, fifth) and passing touchdowns (35, tied for fifth).

Maye - named the AP’s Atlantic Coast Conference offensive player of the year - tweeted that he’d return to UNC as expected.