Is the Minnesota coaching search about to wrap up just a few days after Tracy Claeys was fired?
According to a report from KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck is expected to be named Minnesota's next head coach.
There are a lot of rumors out there but I believe that PJ Fleck will be named the Gopher head coach tomorrow..— Joe Schmit (@JoeSchmitKSTP) January 6, 2017
Forget about Les Miles-All is not quiet on the Western Michigan front. I believe PJ Fleck news conference will be tomorrow.— Joe Schmit (@JoeSchmitKSTP) January 6, 2017
Fleck was reported to have met with Minnesota officials Wednesday in Chicago and has been at the top of the Twitterverse's wishlist despite a Thursday report that former LSU head coach Les Miles was in the Land of 10,000 Lakes to talk about the job.
Fleck is one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country after the magic he worked at Western Michigan this season, leading the Broncos to 13 wins before the season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl earlier this week.
He's just as well known for his high energy and laundry list of motivational slogans, headlined of course by "row the boat," which is so omnipresent that it's been incorporated into the Broncos' uniforms. His pregame speeches are often shown on ESPN, and there's no doubt he would bring excitement to campus and fire up the fan base.
Fleck is a native Midwesterner — from Sugar Grove, Ill., and a product of Kaneland High School — and played his college ball at Northern Illinois. He returned to his alma mater as an assistant and worked under Jerry Kill, the former Minnesota head coach who just Wednesday blasted the administration in a radio interview, irate about the firing of Claeys, his former defensive coordinator. After three seasons as an assistant under Greg Schiano at Rutgers and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he took the head-coaching job at Western Michigan and compiled a 30-22 record in four seasons. The turnaround there has been remarkable, going from one win in his first season to 13 and a MAC championship this season.
The program at Minnesota is hardly on solid ground, with players and the aforementioned Kill still voicing their extreme displeasure over Claeys' dismissal. The fallout of the short-lived players boycott continues, and the 10 suspensions that led to that boycott — coming after a university investigation into an alleged sexual assault — could result in expulsions or varying degrees of suspensions.
But a Big Ten head-coaching job is a good one, with ample resources and a national stage as the biggest pros of coaching in the conference. Plus, Minnesota plays in the Big Ten West, which often provides an easier annual road to the league title game than the powerhouse-heavy Big Ten East.
Will the Gophers announce Fleck Friday? Stay tuned.