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Gophers Trying to Finalize Fleck

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January 5, 2017

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A college football source with local and national connections told Sports Headliners this afternoon the Gophers are working to finalize a deal with Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck.

The source, who will remain anonymous, said an issue could be the number of years on the contract. Five year contracts are common in college football but the Gophers may have to go longer with Fleck. It’s believed Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle will need to pay a new head coach between $2.5 million and $3.5 million annually.

Fleck, 36, is one of the hottest coaching prospects in America after leading the Broncos to a 13-1 season and top 20 national ranking. Known as a charismatic leader, Fleck could provide immediate enthusiasm for Gophers football both inside and outside the program.

Tracy Claeys

Tracy Claeys

Coyle is on the spot after firing head coach Tracy Claeys earlier this week. It’s unusual to terminate a coach weeks after the regular season ends and just weeks before college football’s signing date for high school recruits. The move to terminate the contracts of Claeys and his assistant coaches is estimated at a cost of $3.5 million or more.

Another source said he would be “stunned” if Coyles hadn’t done his homework on possible replacements for Claeys weeks ago. Fleck’s name has been most prominently mentioned with the search but others have surfaced including ex-LSU coach Les Miles who won a national title with the Tigers in 2007, and Bo Pelini, the former Nebraska coach whose Youngstown State team plays for the FCS national title this weekend.

Miles might stir immediate excitement among fans but his hire would also prompt memories of basketball coach Tubby Smith who received a warm welcome in Minneapolis when he left Kentucky where he won a national championship but struggled with the Gophers before being fired in 2013. He had two 9-9 Big Ten seasons but never had a winning conference record in five years.

Internet reports the last two days have referenced Coyle meeting with Fleck at an out of town location including Chicago. It’s known that Fleck hasn’t so far signed a contract extension with the Mid-American Conference Broncos who he has coached for four seasons.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

(2) Readers Comments

  1. avatar
    Tom Sakal
    January 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Dave, that's great news and I'm glad to see the "U" didn't drag their feet on hiring a new coach quickly. Coach Fleck looks good on paper, he's done a wonderful job at Western Michigan but now he's in the Big 10 and we'll find out what he'll do very quickly. I'm not excited or interested in hearing about winning games and being competitive, I want to know how he will do it. His success will hinge upon his ability to attract and sign top quality athletes, 3-4-5- Star level athletes. If he cannot recruit this level of athletes to Minnesota then he too will fail in his attempt to resurrect the football program and compete with the championship level teams in the Big 10. If you look at the Top 10-20 teams in the country who constantly via for the National Championship you'll find that 60-80% of those teams rosters are 3-4-5 Star rated athletes. Recruit 4-7 kids of that caliber each year for 4-5 years consecutive and you'll have not only very competitive teams but "Bench Strength", something that has been sadly missing for far too many years at Minnesota. Ask yourself this question Dave, in the past 30-35 years how many 3-4-5 Star Level athletes has Minnesota recruited/signed? I'll venture to say you can count them on one hand. Continuation of this inability to recruit top notch talent will only result in "0" Conference Championships. This Fall (2017) marks the "50th" anniversary of the last Championship team at Minnesota (1964). To me that's not only totally unacceptable but a huge embarrassment. Shame on the University and we alumni for allowing and accepting this miserable performance from the numerous coaching staffs that have passed through over the past. I would love to have the opportunity to meet and talk with coach Fleck and share my thoughts with him. I wish him well and will fully support him but at this stag of my life I don't want to hear any more rah-rah rhetoric, I want results.

  2. avatar
    Tom Sakal
    January 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Dave, I misspoke, the last Conference Championship Team was "1967", not 1964. Shame on me, I'm showing my age........

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