What are the Odds PJ Fleck Lands UCLA Head Coaching Job?
Minnesota Gophers head football coach PJ Fleck is reportedly one of the top candidates for the recently-vacated UCLA head coaching job. The University of Minnesota athletic department has been quiet since Fleck was linked to the Bruins job on Friday afternoon.
Nonetheless, reputable reporters from both The Athletic (Bruce Feldman) and Action Network (Brett McMurphy) have listed Fleck as one of the Bruins’ top candidates. In Feldman’s report, PJ was the only active head coach listed as candidate of interest. He and David Shaw, formerly at Stanford, were the only two candidates listed with any head coaching experience.
Odds PJ Fleck lands UCLA head coaching job
In other words, my worry level on losing PJ Fleck was increasing by the hour yesterday, as rumors continued to push him to the top of UCLA’s board of coaching possibilities. I know there are plenty of Minnesota Gopher football fans who don’t care if, or would love to see Fleck leave… more on that momentarily.
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Would PJ Fleck take UCLA job over Minnesota?
Some locally, and around football, have questioned out loud whether or not the UCLA job is better than what PJ has in Minnesota, especially given he has already entrenched himself and his culture in Dinkytown. Starting over with a program in turmoil, like the Bruins’ is, might seem like too much of an undertaking, especially with spring practices right around the corner.
PJ Fleck and his staff feel really good about their roster for 2024 and they just completed their best recruiting class of the NIL era. Would UCLA be ok with “Row the Boat” and would they be willing to fire and pay the buyouts for most of their coaching staff; a group they just extended last offseason? If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no’ then I’d be surprised if Fleck would accept the job.
In a four-season stretch under Jim Mora, from 2012-2015, UCLA football went 37-16 and had back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014. But starting in 2016, the Bruins began a 45-49 downward spiral that included just one 9-win season and only three seasons above .500, all of which came in the past three seasons under Chip Kelly… who was just pressured to leave.
Both schools are now in the same conference and, outside of the weather and bright lights of California, Bruins football hasn’t been anything worth bragging about for most of the last decade. Obviously, questions would start with what exactly the UCLA NIL program looks like. Are Bruins boosters steadily pumping in more dollars than just about any school in the country, like their big brothers at USC?
The Gophers’ Name, Image and Likeness situation has seen marketable improvement in the last year but it’s still nowhere near USC, Michigan or Ohio State level. More money, not just for Fleck, but his staff too, along with better NIL funding would be the easiest ways to lure him away from Minnesota.
I have reached out to PJ Fleck’s office for comment on whether or not he has any interest in the UCLA job and have not yet gotten a response.
For the PJ Fleck haters
For those Gophers fans who do not like PJ Fleck, you’re welcome to cheer for your sports teams however you see fit, even if you don’t see correctly. But let me just point out, yet again, how much better PJ has been as leader of this football program than just about any coach that had his job before him.
At 50-34, Fleck has the best winning percentage (.595) of any Minnesota Gophers football coach since Bernie Bierman (.716), who coached for 16 seasons from 1932 to 1950, and is widely considered one of the greatest coaches of all time; not just in Dinkytown, but in football history.
In fact, the only U of M football coaches since 1900 with a better winning percentage than Fleck are the legendary Henry Williams, who went 136-33-11 (.786) from 1900-1920 and is seen as the father of Gopher football. Then, there’s the aforementioned Bierman, who went 93-35-6 (.716) and Clarence Spears, who went 28-9-3 (.716) from 1925-1929. That’s it.
Rip PJ’s conference record (29-32) all you want. That’s a very fair criticism. But losing Big Ten games was a problem for the Dinkytown football team long before he got here.