Former Minnesota players, staff reportedly allege toxic culture under PJ Fleck
Former players and staff at Minnesota have alleged in recent interviews that there’s a toxic culture under coach PJ Fleck.
They described an environment fraught with intimidation and toxicity and referenced the “Fleck Bank” — a system that allowed players with enough “coins” to get away with positive drug tests, and other violations of team rules, Front Office Sports reported.
Athletics director Mark Coyle said Fleck’s approach is what makes the program strong.
“P.J. and our program are unique,” Coyle said in a statement. “They put themselves out there in new and different ways — but always in a first-class manner — and after 7 seven years, it is clear to me, that is what makes P.J. and our program so successful. I always encourage all of our student-athletes, including every member of our football team, to reach out to me directly if they encounter any issues. To date, I have not heard from a single football student-athlete about the allegations raised.”
Unprompted, the term “cult” was used by multiple former players and former staff members to describe Fleck’s “Row the Boat” philosophy spelled out in the so-called “Fleck Book” that players are given when they join the team. Fleck said he developed the “Row the Boat” approach previously at Western Michigan.
One player said in the report that they had to keep their “guard up” and that they could seek mental health counseling and therapy, but schedules were too busy to make a session.
“Some of Fleck’s recruits tested positive, but he looked past it because they had coins in the Fleck Bank from doing community service or staying around to pray with him,” one player was quoted as saying. “He wanted you to be family, and he wanted you to do whatever he wanted you to do.”
The University of Minnesota athletics department stated the school’s “drug testing policy is applied equitable and universally across all programs and any implication otherwise is false.”