Gophers Trying to Finalize Fleck
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.
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.