Minnesota hires Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck

Dr. Saturday
P.J. Fleck has gone 29-11 in three seasons after a 1-11 first season at WMU. (Getty)
P.J. Fleck has gone 29-11 in three seasons after a 1-11 first season at WMU. (Getty)

Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck is off to the Big Ten after agreeing to be the new coach at Minnesota.

After multiple reports emerged late Thursday night and Friday morning, the school made the hire official late Friday morning.

Scroll to continue with content

Fleck’s Western Michigan team went undefeated during the 2016 regular season and lost to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. It was the first time a school from the Mid-American Conference had gone to a New Year’s Six Bowl since the advent of the College Football Playoff in 2014.

After a 1-11 season in his first year in 2013, Fleck led WMU to three-straight bowl games. He leaves the school with a career 30-22 record, meaning he went 29-11 in those three bowl seasons.

“P.J. is a proven winner and a strong leader. He’s built a unique, positive culture that gets the best out of his students on the field and in the classroom,” said Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle. “His infectious energy and passion make him a terrific coach and dynamic recruiter. I am excited he will be leading the Gophers for years to come.”

Added Fleck: “It’s an honor to coach at Minnesota and be part of the Big Ten conference. I want to thank president Eric Kaler, athletic director Mark Coyle and the Board of Regents for this opportunity. I also want to thank Western Michigan, my players and the great fans and city of Kalamazoo for a wonderful four years.

“I look forward to meeting my new players and getting to know them as quickly as possible. I am excited to put together a staff and turn my efforts to recruiting, but also want Gopher fans to know that my wife, Heather, and I and our four children will be visible in the community and we are eager to connect with them. I am ready to go. Ski-U-Mah!”

Fleck’s deal reportedly spans five years.

Fleck was formerly an assistant on the same coaching staff as former Minnesota coaches Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys, who replaced Kill after his retirement because of health reasons in 2015. Claeys was fired earlier this week after a 9-4 season that ended in controversy as Minnesota players briefly threatened to boycott the game. The boycott, which ended after two games, came after 10 players were suspended following a Title IX investigation into a sexual assault allegation vs. members of the team.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, former LSU coach Les Miles was seen as Minnesota’s backup plan if Fleck failed to agree to terms. Miles, like Fleck, was also mentioned surrounding the opening at Purdue that was filled by Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm.

Fleck’s trademark rallying cry at Western Michigan — as you probably already know — was “Row The Boat,” so it’s very appropriate that he’s heading to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But he won’t be taking the slogan with him. WMU trademarked the slogan in 2015. Maybe we should compile and send him suggestions?

Western Michigan said in a release that it would be commencing a coaching search for Fleck’s replacement immediately.

– – – – – – –

Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next