Wednesday, September 22, 2021

PJ Fleck joins another coaching opening. Here’s How Gophers Can Cut It

An annual tradition started earlier than usual this year: PJ Fleck’s name is mentored for a vacant college football head coaching job.

On Monday, the Gophers’ chief football coach was attached to a newly opened job at Southern Cal. It was like clockwork after Fleck last season with the inauguration of Tennessee and two years earlier with Florida State.

This week, Flake’s name surfaced after Clay Helton was fired and a list of potential candidates was immediately published. The list of potential heirs went so quickly, Helton’s personal belongings may still be inside his old office in Los Angeles.

After hearing the song first, we know the steps of this dance.

Fleck’s current seven-year contract was signed in November 2019 and runs through the 2026 season, but it was written off to make it easier for him to leave after the 2020 season.

Fleck received a raise in 2020 from $3.6 million to $4.6 million — with a yearly increase of $50,000. To leave him the purchase was set at $10 million for the first year in 2020 and drops to $4.5 million in 2021 and $3 million in 2022-23.

A $4.5 million buyout is a small price to do business for a traditional and well-funded program like USC, and that’s why Flake’s buyout figure started high to turn suitors away.

The Gophers’ 2021 schedule looks set for them to go on a winning streak, starting Saturday afternoon when Minnesota (1-1) faces Colorado (1-1) in Boulder. The U would then be a big favorite against Bowling Green in the final non-conference game, and Minnesota would not face a Big Ten opponent in their next five conference games in mid-November.

If the Gophers are, say, 8-1 or 7-2, they’ll likely be ranked in the top 25, and if USC’s quest continues, Fleck’s link to So Cal could loom large.

This brings us back to 2019, when the Gophers started 8-0 for the first time since 1941. Fleck’s camp and the Gophers had been working on a new contract since the Big Ten Media Days in July, and a new contract was announced at Penn State in early November, days before Minnesota was knocked at No. .

Right now, the Flake/USC rumors don’t have much substance to them and contract talks with Minnesota Calm, a source with direct knowledge said Tuesday. But that is expected to change later this season, and November operates as an important month. USC promoted Donnett Williams to interim head coach on Monday and is expected to see other candidates before Trojans Eddie Mike Bohn.

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In August, Gophers AD Mark Coyle told Pioneer Press: “Our goal is to keep (Flake) here for a long time. PJ and I get along really well. We have a really great relationship. He trusts me.” He does. I trust him. … We have a really great relationship. We’re so lucky that he and (his wife) Heather are leading our program here. He’s been the ultimate change agent. ”

Fleck took Yu to great heights in 2019, leading 11-2 with a win in the Outback Bowl. Now in his fifth season in Minnesota, Fleck has an overall record of 27-20 and his .574 win percentage is the third-best among 11 Minnesota coaches with at least 45 games. Only Bernie Berman and Henry Williams had the better points, and both of those coaches had led the U before 1951.

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But Fleck is just 15-20 in Big Ten conference play and he’s 1-7 against rivals Wisconsin and Iowa. Fleck had an upward trajectory until 2020 when COVID-19 intervened and he finished 3-4 and rejected a bowling bid.

It won’t be a USC fan base that wants a national championship, but Flake’s ability to win in western Michigan and Minnesota could be an enticing element.

If Yu is serious about possibly skipping Flake’s annual dance and really wants to keep it for a long time – as Coyle says – they should probably make bigger commitments to Flake’s salary and a bigger buyout figure in the longer time frame. would be required. There may also be requests for larger salary budgets for employees and additional resources for their schedules.

As of November 2020, in the USA Today coach’s salary database, Fleck’s salary ranking was 24th in the country, but it was ranked eighth in the 14-team Big Ten. Less successful coaches in the Big Ten West — Purdue’s Jeff Brom and Nebraska’s Scott Frost — made more money than Fleck last year.

PJ Fleck joins another coaching opening. Here's How Gophers Can Cut It
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