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Gophers' P.J. Fleck on UCLA rumors: ‘I just love being at Minnesota’

MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The University of Minnesota football team starts spring practice this week, and P.J. Fleck is starting his eighth season with the Gophers.

That’s key, after another program reportedly showed interest in Fleck as recently as two months ago. Chip Kelly left UCLA to be the offensive coordinator for Ryan Day at Ohio State, and Fleck was immediately linked to the Bruins’ opening.

Fleck addressed the situation for the first time with reporters on Wednesday at Athletes Village. Minnesota will hold its first spring practice on Thursday.

"I just love being at Minnesota. I don’t know if there’s much to say after that. I just love being here, I’ve told you that before. We’ve built a life here, not just make a living being a football coach," Fleck said. "We’re embedded in the community, we love this place. We love the city, love the university, it’s been really good to us. I think cultural sustainability is really important for success, especially in 2024 with the way college football is changing. I think it’s really important for the development of programs. Yeah, just love being at Minnesota."

While on vacation with his wife, Heather, back on Feb. 10, Fleck posted to social media, "Honored to be the Head Football Coach at Minnesota!! Ready for an ELITE 2024 season!! Now back to our wedding anniversary trip!!"

Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle told FOX 9 as recently as last week the interest from UCLA in Fleck was very real. Coyle and Fleck had multiple conversations during that time, and Fleck recently agreed to an amended contract with the Gophers that included a bonus, and more money for his assistant coaches.

The Bruins eventually hired former player DeShaun Foster.

In what could've been a very awkward reunion had Fleck left for UCLA, the Gophers and Bruins meet at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 12.

"I told you we would go to the Rose Bowl guys. You thought I was lying," Fleck joked.

Fleck is 50-34 in seven seasons at Minnesota, including a 29-32 mark in Big Ten play. The Gophers went 6-7 last year after beating Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl.

WHY NO PUBLIC SPRING GAME, COACH?

The Gophers announced earlier this month there would only be one spring practice open to the general public, on Thursday, Aprill 11 at Athletes Village. This Saturday, March 23, the Gophers will have a practice open to members of Dinkytown Athlete’s, Minnesota’s collective for name, image and likeness.

The spring season ends with the annual Spring Game, but it hasn’t happened in front of fans for several years between COVID-19, and snow the week of the scrimmage. This year, there will be no public Spring Game. Instead, a fan event will be held during fall camp like in the past. The Gophers are one of five Power 5 programs to not hold a Spring Game. Fleck explained why.

"A lot of things, take your pick. I don’t think we’ve had a normal Spring Game since 2017. I want to keep things inside the best I possibly can keep things inside," Fleck said. "We’re going to have plenty of scrimmages with what we do and what we’re allowed to do inside our walls. Being able to have our fans understand the changing of college football, the changing of college athletics, I want our fans and urge our fans to be a part of Dinkytown Athletes. It was strictly to benefit our football program, period."