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After ‘real’ interest from UCLA, Gophers give P.J. Fleck significant retention bonuses

Three weeks after their head football coach was linked to UCLA, the Gophers have awarded P.J. Fleck with a contact amendment that includes annual retention bonuses worth $5.7 million over the six years remaining in his deal.

The Bruins reached out to Fleck in early February for their vacant head coach position, but the following day, Fleck publicly reaffirmed his commitment to the Gophers.

The U said Friday, pending Board of Regent approval, Fleck will now receive bonuses on top of his total salary, which remains at $6 million per year. Last year, he received a seven-year contract extension, and that length remains: through the 2029 season.

Fleck, who posted a 6-7 record in 2023, will now receive a substantial retention bonus for each year of the contract. (Year 1 starts the day the deal is approved by regents and ends on Dec. 31, 2024.)

Year 1 (2024): $700,000

Year 2 (2025): $800,000

Year 3 (2026): $900,000

Year 4 (2027): $1 million

Year 5 (2028): $1.1 million

Year 6 (2029): $1.2 million

Fleck’s salary, including retention bonuses, currently ranks ninth in the 18-team Big Ten Conference, according to U documents.

The contract also calls for a $500,000 increase in a salary pool for assistant coaches/staff. Recent Gophers coordinators Joe Rossi and Kirk Ciarrocca left Minnesota in the past two years and received significant salary raises at their next schools — Michigan State and Rutgers, respectively.

The contract amendment also changes the buyout, if Fleck were to leave for another coaching position at any level, or for a job in broadcasting.

Year 1 (2024): $7 million

Year 2 (2025): $5 million

Year 3 (2026): $4 million

Year 4 (2027): $3 million

Year 5 (2028): $2 million

During Year 6 (2029): $0

Fleck’s buyout for 2024 was $5 million.

The contact also includes bowl bonuses: $500,000 for College Football Playoff national championship game; $350,000 for CFP semifinal; $300,000 for CFP quarterfinal; $250,000 for CFP first round; $150,000 for Citrus or Tampa Bay Bowl; $100,000 for other bowls not mentioned above. The amounts shall not be cumulative.

If the U terminates Fleck’s contract without cause, the U would owe him 65 percent of his base salary, supplemental compensation and retention bonuses that would have been paid over the remainder of the contract’s term.

Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle said the UCLA interest was “real” during his appearance on the Golden Gophers Podcast this week.

“When that started to percolate and gain momentum … he and I talked on Friday night,” Coyle shared on the podcast. “We had a long conversation on Friday night. He and I had long conversations on Saturday morning.”

On that Saturday, Feb. 10, Coyle said he also talked with interim U president Jeff Ettinger and the Board of Regents about what Fleck has done at the U.

Fleck’s record is 50-34 overall, including 29-32 in the Big Ten, across seven seasons at Minnesota. He has reached nine or more wins in three seasons, going 11-2 in 2019. Gophers players have been setting record grade-point averages and have built a high standing in the community.

“His name is going to come up every year because what he does is unique.” Coyle told host Justin Gaard. “I can tell you in the athletic director circle, people talk about him. … People get confused about Row the Boat. They get confused about him jumping up and down on the sideline. They get confused of him running around, all that type of stuff. At the end of the day he is old-fashioned values packaged hi-def.”

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