P.J. Fleck, who switched jobs 2 years after signing a contract extension, thinks society has a commitment problem

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Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck believes society has a commitment issue. He left Western Michigan for Minnesota two years after signing a six-year contract extension. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck believes society has a commitment issue. He left Western Michigan for Minnesota two years after signing a six-year contract extension. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck believes college football players decommitting from schools is the reflection of a commitment problem in society.

Fleck, a man who left Western Michigan just two seasons after signing a six-year contract extension with the school, has had three players decommit from Minnesota recently. While that may seem like a big deal to Minnesota fans, high school players changing their mind is a common occurrence and coaches realize that.

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The mind-changing is why verbal commitments to schools are non-binding. Players can keep their options open and coaches can keep trying persuade those players to change their mind. Fleck realizes that. And it’s preposterous to think that Fleck and his coaching staffs at Western Michigan and Minnesota haven’t tried to change the mind of a player who is verbally committed to another school or have dangled a non-binding scholarship offer in front of a player.

Those recent decommitments lead to comments Fleck made to Minnesota fans at a coaching caravan stop Wednesday night. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

"I have a rule: You commit to me, you can't go see another place," Fleck said. "Not because I'm insecure. But if you want to be committed, you're going to be committed. Too many people teach young people to be committed but also one foot in and one foot out. ... You’ve got to be all in."

Or as Fleck termed it: "We have a problem in our society. We don't have a problem in our program."

Fleck signed a six-year deal with Western Michigan in 2014

Here’s where Fleck’s lack of self-awareness comes in. After an 8-4 season in 2014, he agreed to new six-year contract extension with Western Michigan that tied him to the school through the 2020 season.

But not long after Western Michigan went undefeated in the 2016 regular season, Fleck was off to Minnesota to replace the fired Tracy Claeys. While any college sports fan knows that coaching contracts are far from binding, it’s quite rich for any college football coach — much less one that left a job a third of the way into a contract extension — to talk about a commitment issue in society without first pointing the finger at himself.

Especially one like Fleck, who had six players decommit from Western Michigan and follow him to Minnesota after he was hired by the Gophers. Were the players who followed him an example of an alleged commitment problem in society or were they, in Fleck’s eyes, simply staying committed to him? After all, he did use the phrase “you commit to me” in those comments Wednesday night.

There would be a lot less irony on college sports if all players were compensated fairly for their efforts and didn’t have to get transfer waivers or sit out a year when changing schools while coaches can break their contracts with relative ease. But the only way that irony disappears is if those who are in power in college sports — hint, they’re the ones making all the money — recognized the system was broken and decided to fix it.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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