There has already been a wave of speculation surrounding P.J. Fleck and Minnesota following the latter’s firing of Tracy Claeys on Tuesday, but the speculation appears to have developed into something a little more concrete.
Fleck, fresh off leading Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl, has reportedly met with University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle at his agent’s office in Chicago, per Joe Schmit of KSTP-TV.
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
Have confirmed that Eric Kaler and Mark Coyle flew to Chicago for a meeting today. PJ Fleck's agent happens to be based out Chicago.
— Joe Schmit (@JoeSchmitKSTP) January 4, 2017
Fleck has been widely seen as a strong fit for a Minnesota program in desperate need of a qualified coach to right the ship after entering the coaching carousel much later than usual. The 36-year-old Fleck is coming off a 13-1 season with the Broncos that saw his team go undefeated and win the Mid-American Conference before falling to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
The real question: Does Fleck want to stick with Western Michigan for another year before surveying the market to find a potentially better landing spot, especially considering he could be walking into a hostile locker room.
Claeys admitted he had landed in hot water with Kaler and Coyle following a tweet in support of his players’ now-infamous boycott before the Holiday Bowl following the suspension of 10 players.
Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world! 〽️?
— GoldenGopherHFC (@GoldenGopherHFC) December 16, 2016
The players ended their boycott after just two days, reportedly after they saw the details of the investigation into the sexual-assault claim. The Gophers beat Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, 17-12, to cap a 9-4 season.
Following Claeys’ firing Tuesday, outgoing Gophers QB Mitch Leidner told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy: “No one is happy with the administration right now. I don’t know who would want to be a part of this program at this time.”
Leidner, who started 39 games in his career and ranks third all-time in passing yards for Minnesota, called it a “terrible decision by the administration.”
Claeys was 11-8 since taking over following Jerry Kill’s retirement last season. Before that, he had worked under Kill for 21 years.