Why Did Athan Kaliakmanis Enter the Transfer Portal?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Minnesota
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

So far this offseason, the Minnesota Gophers have done a relatively good job of keeping existing talent on roster. Except for QB Athan Kaliakmanis, who entered the transfer portal just a day or two after the Gophers’ season finale loss to Wisconsin

We all knew Fleck was going to bring in competition for Athan, this winter, after the redshirt sophomore struggled mightily in his first season as full-time QB1. But nobody thought the team’s leader would jump ship before it ever got to the 2023 dock.

Related: PJ Fleck, Gophers Have Turned in Multiple Rival Schools for Tampering

So, what happened? What made Athan Kaliakmanis go from PJ Fleck’s leading boat rower to the castoff who took an emergency raft to shore, never to be heard from again? Well, according to Darren “Doogie” Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North), Athan wasn’t kicked off the team… but he was definitely ticked off.

PJ Fleck chews Athan Kaliakmanis out in front of ‘others’

After Minnesota took a brutal 49-30 loss vs Purdue, it sounds like PJ lost his cool on Athan in front of “others”. Doogie’s source didn’t divulge who was present while when Fleck flipped out on his starting QB, but no matter, Kaliakmanis did not take it well.

“As recently as before the Purdue game [Athan] was rowing the boat, all on board. So what changed? Well, [the Gophers] got their asses kicked in West Lafayette. When you lose that game the way they lost, you become rock bottom.

But there were some public words… I don’t know how many people were in the room, but there was a heated conversation… well, more so a one-sided conversation where PJ was pointing out stuff about Athan in front of others that really soured Athan on his situation here.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd Show (SKOR North)

Too much blame for Minnesota Gophers issues?

Related: PJ Fleck Must Find Quarterback He Can Trust in Offseason

It wasn’t just this one game where Kaliakmanis felt like too much of the blame for Minnesota’s difficult season was being placed on his shoulders.

Wolfson’s source, which is someone close to Athan, made it seem like the Gophers’ coaching staff was trying to ‘pin everything on him’. That he was willing to accept his fair share, but “he was struggling with literally all the blame being thrown his way.”

“If you look at the situation: Three offensive coordinators in three years. His receivers top three in FBS in drops. Yeah, he made plenty of mistakes but it seemed like those with the Gophers were trying to pin like literally everything on him. He was willing to accept enough blame. But I think he was struggling with literally all the blame being thrown his way.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd Show (SKOR North)

No promises to start bowl game

Darren makes it clear that Athan’s transfer portal entry wasn’t based on one, two or even three specific reasons. Just like any major life decision, circumstances are far more gray than they are black and white.

Related: New Hampshire Grad Transfer QB Max Brosmer Commits to Minnesota

But the third major factor he singled out, as to why Kaliakmanis entered the portal, was Fleck’s uncertainty over who would start at QB for the upcoming bowl game. If Fleck’s postgame ass chewing got Athan to start thinking about a transfer, this was what sealed his fate.

“And he wasn’t promised, before he announced he was entering the portal, he was not promised [the starting job for the bowl game]. He asked, ‘hey am I good to go to start the bowl game’. Behind the scenes, he was not told, ‘hey you’re 100% a lock to start the bowl game.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd Show (SKOR North)

Athan saw writing on the wall

athan kaliakmanis transfer portal minnesota gophers pj fleck
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the thing. This reads like Athan Kaliakmanis can’t handle getting his ass chewed after playing poorly, it’s hard to avoid that assumption, after hearing Doogie’s report.

But here’s what I think really happened. Athan realized the writing was on the wall. PJ Fleck and his staff need to win more games next year and the pressure to do so will be sky high.

Related: Minnesota Gophers Football Transfer Portal Tracker 2023

After Fleck cussed him out in front of [we aren’t sure but in front of someone], it became clear to him that his coaching staff was no longer sold on him being the right answer at QB.

Throw that in with the blame game and Minnesota’s refusal to promise him the QB1 spot later this month in their bowl game, and Kaliakmanis decided a fresh start would be best. And I’m guessing, based on Wolfson’s report, that the Gopher staff didn’t beg him to stay.

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