Everyone is Going to Want PJ Fleck… but PJ Fleck Wants Minnesota

Photo: GopherSports.com

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You can feel the winds of momentum changing around the Minnesota Gopher Football Program and its head coach, PJ Fleck. Now strapped with a 7-0 record, our still new-ish head coach has gone from being the ass of all jokes, to making an ass out of anyone who made jokes about him. I’ve seen it happen in fan bases all around the country over the past 10-ish months; from Wisconsin (after we took the Axe), to Nebraska (after kicking their ass last week), and now flowing into Michigan (with two coaches currently on the hot seat), the PJ Fleck steam train is rapidly spreading across the country. College football is finally starting to see PJ Fleck for who he really is; a great college football coach and an even better human.

Last week you started to see Minnesota, itself, go from skeptical to worried on PJ Fleck. Many who weren’t believers until halfway through this season, were starting to shift that skepticism to fear. It’s a very fine line in this state. Either you believe your coach isn’t good enough or you believe he/she is leaving for a better opportunity as soon as he/she gets a chance. There isn’t really a “Happy and Secure w/My Coach“ option for most in this state.

But today, the panic will really start to hit record-highs because people around Minnesota are going to wake up over the next few hours and they are going to log onto the World Wide Web. Once they get there, they are going to see this (and panic will likely set in):

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Alright, alright….. let’s calm that breathing.

Breathe in —————— Breathe out ———

Breathe in —————— Breathe out ———

Breathe in —————— Breathe out ———

If you’re still feeling panicked, you just continue those breathing exercises and keep reading.

PJ Fleck isn’t going anywhere. He would be silly to leave at this point, as long as the University of Minnesota is willing to pay him, which they are. There are a lot of reasons why Fleck will stay, so I’ll just start before anyone passes out.

  1. PJ isn’t the person many think he is. He isn’t this young, hungry for power and fame, coach, that outsiders see him as. That’s the first and biggest mistake by those who haven’t spent time finding out who the real PJ Fleck is. If you delete that unwarranted “look at me” reputation, the entire conversation changes.
  2. Mark Coyle: PJ loves our AD, Mark Coyle. He has talked about how big it is for him to see the program in the same light that his AD does. Mark Coyle is that AD. Fleck will be the first to tell you, that he isn’t for everyone. Coyle gets him though. He hired PJ Fleck. Many people underestimate how important that relationship is.
  3. It doesn’t make sense to leave Minnesota right now. Even if PJ had bigger plans than the University of Minnesota Campus, now isn’t the right time to make your move. You still have guys playing this year, who came in under the regime before you. You haven’t had a chance to show that you can, not only turn a program around, but can win with consistency and play in big bowl games in consecutive seasons.
  4. (3. Leaving doesn’t make sense cont…) Recruiting: Fleck hasn’t even had the chance to show his full recruiting potential. After a season like this, PJ is going to be walking into houses and snagging kids that would have never known Minnesota even existed on a map, before talking to him. He’s about to show the country how recruiting for an up and coming program is done. He already has the next class off to a great start with 4-star QB, Athan Kaliakmanis and his WR brother, Dino. Both continue to climb up recruiting boards. It would make a lot more sense for Fleck’s career, coaching staff, legacy, recruits, and reputation, to stay at least 2-3 more years. By then, he’ll already be making top-10 coaching money AND getting offers to be the highest paid coach in the entire country.
  5. PJ loves it here. Everyone thinks PJ is a used car salesman so they continue to ignore him when he talks about Minnesota. This was one of just a few teams on his shortlist of places he would have left Western Michigan for. He’s done everything he told us he would. What many once thought were sales pitches now look like truths. Maybe….. JUUUUUUST maybe…. this is the place PJ actually wants to be for a VERY long time? That leads me into point 4.
  6. Legendary > Great: If I’ve learned one thing about PJ Fleck, in my time covering the Gophers this year, it’s that he is always thinking bigger than you and has thought every situation through, with a stupid amount of detail. There is no doubt, just like any coach out there, that PJ Fleck wants to create a college coaching legacy that lasts forever. He could drive the route most would, and take a job at USC, Texas, Michigan, or [insert your favorite helmet school here]… but Fleck doesn’t really think like everyone else. And, I know something that would be bigger than returning a helmet school to relevance…. and that’s raising a historic Minnesota Gopher football program from the grave it’s rested in for 60 years, and restoring it to a National Championship level program.

Now, that would be something that sits on only the most legendary of college football coaching résumés. Staying here and building the University of Minnesota back into a perennial Big Ten Championship contender isn’t just something most coaches couldn’t do, but it goes beyond that. It’s something a lot of coaches wouldn’t even want to try. It’s literally a mythical thought. And that’s why, when PJ came here making those kind of bold claims, he was mocked and ridiculed. Why would he leave before he has a chance to make his own fortune-telling come true? No. I expect PJ Fleck to take his own advice on his future.

“Don’t be afraid to be a legend”

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Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

(I ranted about this same thing on one of last week’s “Minnesota Sports & Stuff” episodes:)

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