P.J. Fleck will row his boat to Minneapolis.
University of Minnesota (U of M) Athletics Director Mark Coyle announced what had been widely reported, that P.J. Fleck has been named the Gophers' new head football coach.
The U of M and Fleck have agreed to a five-year term. The new coach will meet the media at a 3 p.m. news conference.
January 6, 2017
Update: Coach Fleck has arrived!
Fleck comes to the Gophers after four years as the head coach at the University of Western Michigan, where his teams were 30-22 overall and 21-11 in the Mid-American Conference. His time there yielded a remarkable program turnaround: The Broncos were 1-11 in his first year in 2013, but ended last season with a No. 12 ranking, a 13-1 record, a conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
During the successful 2016-17 season the Broncos posted wins against two Big Ten opponents, Northwestern and Illinois. Fleck then led his team to a 29-23 win against Ohio in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship game before ending the season with a narrow bowl game defeat to Wisconsin.
“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 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.”
Fleck, 36, was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2016 and this year led the Broncos to their first MAC Championship since 1988.
Off the field, Western Michigan had a program-record seven student-athletes named to the 2016 MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete team and the Bronco team posted a 3.14 program GPA in its most recent semester.
“I look forward to meeting my new players and getting to know them as quickly as possible," Fleck said in a statement. "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!”
Prior to his time at Western Michigan, Fleck served as the wide receivers coach for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and coached receivers at Rutgers from 2010-11. He coached receivers and was the recruiting coordinator at Northern Illinois in 2009 and tutored the receivers for the Huskies from 2007-08.
Fleck’s coaching career began at Ohio State as a graduate assistant in 2006.
During his playing career, Fleck was a receiver at Northern Illinois from 1999-2003 and helped lead the Huskies to a No. 10 ranking, a 10-2 record and wins against Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State in his final season. He ranks in the top five in Northern Illinois history in career receptions (179) and receiving yards (2,162). Fleck holds the school record for punt returns (87) and ranks second in punt return yards (716).
Fleck played the 2004-05 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. He signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 2004 and spent most of his time on the practice squad before seeing action against New England late in the season. He spent the 2005 season on the injured reserve roster and in 2006 he hung up his cleats and started his coaching career.
Fleck and his wife, Heather, have four children, Gavin, Carter, Paisley (P.J.) and Harper.
- 2017- Minnesota, Head Coach
- 2013-17 Western Michigan, Head Coach
- 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Wide Receivers Coach
- 2010-11 Rutgers, Wide Receivers Coach
- 2009 Northern Illinois, Recruiting Coordinator, Wide Receivers Coach
- 2007-08 Northern Illinois, Wide Receivers Coach
- 2006 Ohio State, Graduate Assistant
Western Michigan Athletics Director Kathy Beauregard held a news conference late Friday morning to officially announce Fleck's departure. She said Fleck took the Broncos football program to a level it had never been, and revealed that the school and prominent donors had been putting together a lucrative package in the past month and a half to keep the coach at Western Michigan.
Beauregard says she anticipates a number of Fleck's assistants will accompany him to Minnesota, but could not share names. The AD said her main concern through the process is her student athletes, and assured people that administrators will be meeting with football players on campus this afternoon to discuss what comes next.