Western Michigan lost head coach P.J. Fleck as he left to take the head coaching job for the Minnesota Golden Gophers a football program that is reeling from a 10-player suspension and a threatened boycott by players at a recent bowl game because of an investigation over sexual-assault.
Fleck, who is just 36, signed a 5-year contract for an estimated $18.5 million. Mark Coyle the athletic director at Minnesota said he signed Fleck as the head coach because of his endless enthusiasm that is needed for a program and school that has been fractured the last month.
Fleck during a news conference to present him as the university’s new head football coach said that he did not come to change tradition, but he would change the culture.
Fleck and former coach at LSU Les Miles both had interviews for the position at Minnesota that became available after Tracy Claeys was fired and only two weeks after the program was embroiled in a standoff with university administration because of 10 players being suspended.
Coyle said the decision to have Claeys fired was his and was made to address the challenges in recruiting, sales of tickets and the culture of the overall program.
Coyle had to quickly locate a coach to replace Claeys so that coach could start recruiting,
Fleck said that he had not had the time the last two days to look into the issues facing Minnesota but said he was not going to allow the past to influence what takes place moving ahead.
In December, players threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl after not agreeing with the way the university had investigated a sexual assault that led to 10 players being suspended.
The issue has not ended, as there are appeals for the 10 players that will be heard later this month.
One player said he did not know if his fellow teammates would embrace the new coach and his staff. He did say he did not want to take something out on Fleck and his staff because they were new, but that the team did not like the administration.
Fleck led Western Michigan this season to a record of 13-1 and a Cotton Bowl appearance where they were defeated by Wisconsin 24-16.
In his four years with Western Michigan, Fleck won 30 of 52 games and appeared in bowl games three of the four years.
At least five of Fleck’s recruits are expected to follow him to Minnesota.