A highly critical article of the Golden Gophers football program by Front Office was addressed this morning by head coach P.J. Fleck at Big Ten Media Day in Indianapolis.
The story by A.J. Perez sourced anonymous former Minnesota players accusing Fleck and the program of having a “toxic” environment. Allegations were made of physical and emotional harm in a program that supposedly encouraged players to tattle on one another and play to Fleck’s ego. https://frontofficesports.com/former-gophers-players-staff-reveal-troubling-allegations-of-toxic-culture-under-p-j-fleck/
“These allegations are baseless,” Fleck said about the Front Office story while speaking on the Big Ten Network. He added the accusations are similar to past stories about the program that he said are without merit.
Fleck, about to start his seventh season as head coach, said physical punishment is never used to discipline players. That practice is contrary to University of Minnesota Athletic Department policy for all sports at the school.
Fleck said there are multiple avenues in place allowing players to anonymously report issues at Minnesota. Athletic Director Mark Coyle also makes his cell phone available to Gopher athletes who may have concerns. But “zero claims” have been made, according to the coach.
“We’re one of the most transparent programs in the country,” Fleck said. “There are tons of testimonials from past, present and even future Gophers to support and prove that.”
Media and fans should be open-minded to potential further developments regarding problems in the program. The allegations are serious but one new story with anonymous sources will not prompt an investigation of a program that has been successful on the field, in the classroom and with community projects.
There are hundreds of players who have gone through Fleck’s program since he took over as coach in 2017. There have to be some who didn’t like their experience and probably a few who hold bad feelings and intentions.
A source close to the program texted this to Sports Headliners: “My nugget for you would be that at least a few of these unnamed sources are guys that all failed drug tests and didn’t make it more than a year with Fleck.”
The timing of the Front Office article is interesting, coming during Big Ten Media Days and close to the beginning of the Gophers opening of training camp. Tyler Nubin, the senior Gopher safety and team leader, reacted this way on Twitter: “Hilarious hit piece. Been a part of this program for 5 years and I’ve never seen anything except great people and great coaches who care about the PLAYERS. This program not for everyone. For obvious reasons…. I ain’t come back my 5th year for nothing.”
Former Gopher Casey O’Brien tweeted this: “Wouldn’t trade it. Proud alum of @Coach_Fleck and @GopherFootball. #RTB.”
College Football Notes
Fleck continues to receive recognition as a top 25 coach nationally. Stewart Mandell, The Athletic’s respected college football writer, ranked Fleck No. 21 in a listing early this year that had Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart “1A and 1 B.”
Lindy’s Big Ten football magazine points out the Gophers’ winning record in Big Ten games the last two seasons is a first for the program since 1967-1968. “Over the past half century, the Gophers have won just 38 percent of their Big Ten games,” per Lindy’s.
The Gophers have no sellouts yet on their seven-game home schedule including the opener with Nebraska August 31. The athletic department’s website reports limited seating availability for the Big Ten rivalry game. Purchase of a ticket includes the option to buy a ticket to another home game starting at $10.
As in the past, the department is scaling ticket prices differently (sometimes dramatically) depending on the opponent. Gophersports.com reports tickets range from $115 to $305 for the Nebraska game. Prices range from $25 to $120 for the second home game of the season, September 9 against Eastern Michigan.
Minnesota’s most attractive road game to many fans will be October 21 in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s athletic department website reports the first five home games of the season, including against the Gophers, are sold out. SeatGeek has tickets for the Minnesota game starting at $61 as of today.
Georgia tries for a third consecutive national championship this year, a feat no team has accomplished in post-World War II college football. The Gophers were the last to run off three in a row—1934-1936.
Rutgers isn’t on the Minnesota schedule, but no Big Ten program has a closer connection to the Gophers this fall. Former Gophers Curtis Dunlap and Michael Dixon are expected Rutgers starters at offensive guard and defensive back. Ex-Minnesota assistant coaches Kirk Ciarrocca and Joe Harasymiak are the Scarlet Knights offensive and defensive coordinators respectively.