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Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman arrived back in Lansing on Sunday afternoon after a whirlwind weekend that sent him crisscrossing the country looking for the university's next football coach.

Now, the big question: Does he have his man?

Beekman landed in Cincinnati on Saturday night, ahead of a Sunday morning interview with Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, believed to be Michigan State's primary target to replace the retired Mark Dantonio. WLWT Channel 5 in Cincinnati captured video of Beekman deplaning on Saturday night.

The trip to Cincinnati capped a busy few days for Beekman, who boarded a private plane on Friday morning and made two other stops before he arrived in Cincinnati.

Beekman flew on a private plane based out of Lansing. The plane's travels, according to FlightAware.com, started Friday morning and flew to Colorado. Colorado head coach Mel Tucker, a former MSU assistant coach, said Saturday that he was staying at his current job, which he began last season.

Beekman's plane then went on to San Jose, Calif., where 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was a believed hot yet long-shot name. Saleh, a Dearborn native, has MSU ties, but media reports said he was planning to stay in the NFL, where he's considered a strong candidate to be a head coach soon.

Beekman's plane then flew from San Jose to Cincinnati. Beekman was caught on camera exiting the plane with multiple large pieces of luggage.

A meeting of MSU university officials is tentatively scheduled for early this week to discuss the search, perhaps as early as Monday.

According to FlightAware.com, after Cincinnati, Beekman's plane was scheduled to head to State College, Pa., home of Penn State, later Sunday, but that trip was scrapped. Beekman's plane took off for Lansing shortly after 1 p.m., and he landed back in mid-Michigan just before 2 p.m. Fickell was not with him; Beekman deplaned with 

A big winter snowstorm was moving across Michigan on Sunday afternoon, perhaps prompting his change in travel plans and his pushing-up of the trip back to Lansing.

As for Penn State, there is no obvious name on the current Nittany Lions staff who would seemingly be up for the job. Former Western Michigan offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is on staff, but was just hired this offseason.

Co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks is a Detroit native and Central Michigan alumnus who played cornerback for the Chippewas. He has a 25-year coaching resume that has included stops at Illinois, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Maryland, Memphis, Bowling Green and Ferris State.

This coaching search is basically the first for Michigan State football in the Twitter era. Twitter was founded early in 2006, but it wasn't the rumor-filled pasture it is today. That made for an interesting day Sunday, as fans followed along with Beekman's plane. Social-media sleuths even pointed out MSU trustee Brian Mosallam and the official account for Sparty followed Fickell's Twitter account Sunday.

Fickell has been believed to be the top candidate since Dantonio announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down after 13 seasons. Former Michigan State defensive coordinator and current Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi quickly took his name out of consideration.

Fickell, 46, has compiled a 26-13 record in three seasons leading the Bearcats after spending the previous 16 seasons at Ohio State. He was the Buckeyes’ interim head coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel stepped down and served on the same staff as Dantonio when Ohio State won the national championship in 2002.

Fickell has three years left on his contract that pays him $2.3 million a year. His buyout at the moment would be $2.5 million.

A source confirmed to The News that the process has accelerated quickly over the last few days, though no hire ever was expected until this week at the earliest. Originally, it was believed a new coach wouldn’t be named until at least later in the upcoming week.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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