As potentially seismic B1G offseason looms, PJ Fleck and Minnesota buy stability
Peace of mind always comes with a price tag, and Minnesota purchased some Wednesday as it announced a recently signed 7-year contract extension with coach PJ Fleck.
We are facing one of the silliest coaching silly seasons in recent memory, and [redacted] hasn’t even gotten real yet. Two of the nation’s perennial Top 10 jobs are already open, at USC and LSU. Other big ones may break open pending the results of the final 4 weeks of the season.
Florida? Miami? Florida State? All in play. If their contrarian head coaches stand their ground regarding recent university vaccine mandates, high-paying gigs at Auburn and Mississippi State could unexpectedly come into play.
And the potential changes come much closer to home for Minnesota. B1G West rival Nebraska may be hard-pressed not to dump Scott Frost. Over in the East, James Franklin and Mel Tucker have been linked to the aforementioned LSU and USC openings.
And those are just the obvious ones. There can be unexpected changes in any given offseason, like Mark Dantonio or Chris Petersen’s surprise retirements.
They’ve insulated themselves from these worries in the Twin Cities.
Will Fleck actually stick around through 2028, as stated on the contract? Given the nature of the business, that’s less likely than more. But he’ll be there long enough to see his incoming recruiting class through. In addition to boosting Fleck’s salary to $5 million a year, Minnesota significantly bumped up his buyout.
If he leaves now, it’ll cost him $10 million. Next year it’s $7 million before dropping to $5 million in Year 3. It’s not until Year 4 that the buyout drops below his actual full salary at $4 million.
Why extending PJ Fleck is the right move for Minnesota
Fleck probably wasn’t going to be hired at USC or LSU, so to some it may seem that the Gophers are overplaying their hand. This isn’t quite the same as UTSA announcing an extension with Jeff Traylor a week after the Texas Tech job opened up and just an hour before Gary Patterson was deposed at TCU.
Fleck’s 32-21 overall record at Minnesota isn’t mind-blowing.
But in the bigger picture, he has Minnesota rowing in the right direction. That’s no small deal at a school that has inexplicably become one of the toughest places to consistently win in the Big Ten. The Gophers haven’t been to a Rose Bowl since 1960. They haven’t won so much as a piece of the conference title since sharing the apparently cursed 1967 crown with Indiana.
Despite losing 3 running backs to season-ending injuries and having virtually no passing game to speak of, the Golden Gophers are atop the Big Ten West. And if this isn’t the year they make their maiden trip to the Big Ten championship game, it certainly feels like it’s coming soon. Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin are firmly planted as the top programs in the West right now.
By extending Fleck, Minnesota assures that plant will take root.