While the Wolverines are continuing to revive their prestigious program with high-profile names and A-list celebrities, and the Spartans are choosing to stay out of the limelight in their growth as a national powerhouse, another D-I Michigan-based school is working on building their football brand.
The Western Michigan Broncos and infectious head coach P.J. Fleck closed out National Signing Day on Wednesday with the top-rated recruiting class in the Mid-American Conference for the third consecutive year.
Fleck, just 35 years of age, will be entering his fourth season as the head man in Kalamazoo and has undoubtedly convinced Bronco faithful buying in to what he is selling. After a 1-11 campaign in year one, Fleck and the Broncos have put together back-to-back 8-5 seasons, including the school’s first ever bowl win this past December in the Bahamas over Middle Tennessee State, 45-31.
Western Michigan’s 2016 class consists of 13 three-star players and 12 two-stars. Three of the 25 signees have enrolled early at WMU, and 19 of the men who signed their national letter of intent to ‘Row the Boat’ were multi-sport athletes, according to Fleck.
“The better players you have and the more players you have that are talented, the more you’re going to win,” Fleck said. “The better players you have, the better coaches you look like.
“One thing about us is that we celebrate victories and we’re going to celebrate today.”
One can safely say that Western Michigan is trending the right direction to be a consistent threat among the non-Power 5 schools. Fleck knows how important it is to have a nice blend of depth, talent, and versatility.
“We’re able to compete and we’re never going to take a back seat to anybody, no matter what conference they’re in within Michigan or in our six-hour radius,” Fleck said. “That time and effort (to compete) is worth it to me. We’ve won a lot more battles than I think a lot people would give us credit for.”
“That’s what we want to be able to do,” Fleck said about building depth. “My job is to out-recruit every single player that sits in this room. Their job is to keep their job. That’s how a program continues to rise.
“I think when you start to feel the competitive nature within our walls…that’s when you know you have a program and we’re getting there.”
WMU’s non-conference schedule last season featured three FBS bowl-eligible teams, including Big Ten powers Michigan State (L, 37-24 at home) and Ohio State (L, 38-12 on road) as well as Georgia Southern (L, 43-17 on road) from the Sun Belt conference.
In 2016, they will play two different Big Ten foes on the road – Northwestern (9/3) and Illinois (9/17). In addition, they will welcome Georgia Southern into Waldo Stadium on 9/24.