Here's what you should keep in mind with this whole Jerry Kill-P.J. Fleck thing
No matter how you feel about P.J. Fleck, I’m guessing that Jerry Kill didn’t change your mind.
The former Minnesota coach made national headlines regarding his comments about the current Minnesota coach on Tuesday night.
Here was what Kill told Matt Schick and A.J. Hawk on the Big Ten Sirius XM radio station.
“I just think, sometimes, ego gets carried away. When he went to Minnesota and treated the people the way he treated my guys, telling them he had to go in and completely change the culture, and that it was a bad culture and bad people. He made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing,” Kill said. “I took it personal. You just don’t treat people that’ve been with you and helped your career, and you don’t even talk to them once you get the job.”
You have to hear this!!
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) February 19, 2019
If you’re expecting a passionate rant about why Fleck is fake and Kill was spot on to call him out, you’re at the wrong place for that. If you’re expecting me to say that Fleck is 100 percent genuine and that I can’t fathom why someone would call him out like that, you’re in the wrong place for that, too.
Everybody seems to be black or white about Fleck. Kill certainly is.
Kill is also black and white about the belief that Fleck, upon his hiring after the 2016 season, was wrong to say that the culture needed to be changed. It was Kill who back in March 2017 said that Fleck (his former assistant) walked into a “gold mine.”
Kill is entitled to his own opinion. When Kill took over in 2011, he walked into program that hadn’t won 8 games in 8 years. The Gophers accomplished that feat twice during Kill’s 4 seasons in the Twin Cities, and then his assistant Tracy Claeys did just that when he was the full-time coach in 2016. Minnesota was Kill’s baby, and for someone to say that it needed to be fixed obviously hit a nerve.
But now it’s time for me to be black and white. Why? Because I while I understand where Kill is coming from, for him to criticize Fleck for saying that Minnesota’s culture needed to be changed was ridiculous.
All you have to do is look at the following events that occurred in the 16 months prior to Fleck taking over at Minnesota:
- Aug. 2015 — Athletic director Norwood Teague resigns amidst sexual harassment allegations
- Feb. 2016 — Gophers finish outside top 40 in recruiting class rankings for 7th straight year
- Sept. 2016 — 10 players suspended for sexual assault case
- Nov. 2016 — 13th straight loss to rival Wisconsin
- Nov. 2016 — 13th straight finish outside Associated Press Top 25
- Nov. 2016 — 2nd straight finish outside of top 3 in B1G West
- Dec. 2016 — Entire team stages boycott, threatens to sit bowl game if suspended teammates can’t play
- Dec. 2016 — Tracy Claeys speaks out against A.D. in support of player boycott
I don’t know, man. That kinda looks like a program with some issues.
Meanwhile, Fleck inherited a complete dumpster fire at Western Michigan and in 4 years, he took the program from 1-11 to a New Year’s 6 Bowl. Of course he was going to walk into Minnesota and say that he was going to shake things up. With less resources — and obviously weaker competition — he had already walked the path of the rebuild.
Could Minnesota have been in worse position? Absolutely. The $166 million Athletes Village was already in the works and roughly a year away from completion when Fleck took over. And yeah, the Gophers won 9 games in 2016 before Claeys’ inevitable firing following his support of the boycott.
Still, though. Fleck wasn’t like Ryan Day walking into Ohio State. Minnesota needed a brand makeover and Fleck was just the person to come in and provide one. Say what you want about his buzzwords and all of that, but Fleck recognized that he needed people to get people to think differently about Minnesota.
Obviously all of that talk about changing the culture is only solidified if you win. The jury is out on whether Fleck can do that long-term at Minnesota.
But it is worth noting that in his first 2 years in the Twin Cities, he already did 3 things that Kill couldn’t do in 5. That is, beat Wisconsin, win a bowl game (Claeys was the interim coach in 2015) and sign a top-40 class. In terms of changing the Minnesota culture and overall reputation of the program, those are 3 pretty important things.
If Kill has beef with how Fleck operates now, that’s fine. Kill has more insight into “P.J. Fleck the person” than I ever have or ever will. If he doesn’t believe his motives are for the greater good and that it’s really all an act, that’s his right. Fleck isn’t for everybody. To be honest, I’m still not even 100 percent sure that he’s for me.
Just don’t support a former coach who’s upset that someone took over his program and wanted to do things their own way.