Report: Minnesota could be targeting P.J. Fleck as their next head coach

A bid at a perfect 14-0 season fell just short for the Western Michigan Broncos and head coach P.J. Fleck on Monday when they fell 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin. Despite the loss, it should not take anything away from a campaign that has taken the program to new, unseen levels.

Of course with that comes a lot of outside chatter as well, particularly surrounding Fleck. His name has been among the trendier ones since head coaching vacancies popped up in the last month or so. A lot of them have been filled since then, however. And in addition to Fleck’s openness to staying in Kalamazoo, there were reports in early December that Fleck and the school were in talks on a multi-year extension.

But it seems that a new suitor has opened up and could be after Fleck – The University of Minnesota.

The 36-year-old Fleck is reportedly going to be pursued hard by the Gophers after the program fired embattled head coach Tracy Claeys. Claeys was let go after those surrounding their program were deterred, to say the least, after he openly support the players that were a part of a school investigation into sexual assault allegations. Nearly a dozen players were suspended from the team’s bowl game last month due to the ongoing investigation, which ultimately led to the team boycotting their bowl game (albeit very brief).

The suspensions were eventually lifted, along with the boycott, and no official charges were made against any players. But Claeys found himself under siege more than the accused players, ultimately costing his job. Minnesota won their bowl game 17-12 against Washington State, finishing the season with nine wins, their most in 15 years. Claeys himself has gone 11-8 with the team in his 1+ seasons, coaching two bowl victories in the process. He took over midway through the 2015 season after former Gophers head coach Jerry Kill abruptly stepped down due to health concerns.

So now there’s an open position in the Big Ten West and the “Fleck to Minnesota” rumors will almost assuredly get mentioned everyday until something firm comes out. The Gophers job becomes the second Big Ten team this season to connect with Fleck. Purdue reportedly was interested in his services as well before they hired former Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm. Minnesota is clearly much more stable than the Boilers as of late, having been in a bowl game for five straight seasons and been a regular player for the West Division title during that time.

Fleck has just revitalized a Western Michigan program that could have the potential to be a regular player for a New Year’s Six bowl among the Group of 5 contenders. In his four seasons, Fleck is 30-22 overall. Contractually, he’s signed through the 2020 season and that is with the reported contract extension on the table.

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