When Tracy Claeys was fired on Tuesday, the first big-time name that surfaced as a possible replacement was Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck.
The Broncos coach became one of the top stories in college football in leading his WMU squad to a New Year’s Six bowl. And for a while, it seemed imminent that Fleck would move on to a Power Five job at season’s end.
That hasn’t happened yet, but Minnesota is trying to close in on the 36-year-old coach.
According to KSTP sports director Joe Schmit, the Gophers administration flew to Chicago to meet with Fleck and his agent to discuss the opening:
I can confirm that #Gophers AD Mark Coyle and Pres Eric Kaler did meet with PJ Fleck today in Chicago. Nothing official yet….
— Joe Schmit (@JoeSchmitKSTP) January 5, 2017
It would be a surprise if Minnesota brass DIDN’T meet with Fleck to discuss the opening. Widely considered the top coach available on the market, Fleck has Midwest roots.
He also has ties — or former ties — to Minnesota. It was former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill who recommended Fleck for the job at WMU after he worked as an assistant on Kill’s staff at Northern Illinois.
But given Kill’s comments on Wednesday about “never wanting to step foot back on Minnesota” after the university fired Claeys, it remains to be seen how that could impact Fleck.
The Gophers could possibly quadruple the $800,000 Fleck made at WMU in 2016. And while Fleck reportedly agreed to an extension in principle, the terms weren’t finalized.
The question now could just be a matter of whether or not he wants the Minnesota job.
According to Footballscoop.com, the Gophers also reportedly reached out to Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who was offered the job before Kill was hired.
Either way, it appears that Fleck is indeed the top target to replace Claeys. As always with Minnesota, stay tuned.