Timing, it’s been said, is everything.
And for the Gophers football coach, the timing of the four-part documentary series “Being P.J. Fleck” couldn’t have been better.
With Aug. 1-31 as an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period for college football programs, coaches couldn’t get their message to recruits and sell the merits of their program. But “Being P.J. Fleck” aired on Wednesdays on ESPNU from Aug. 2-23, putting the first-year Gophers coach in front of an otherwise untouchable audience.
“It’s a dead period in August, but there was one team that wasn’t dead on national television, and that was the University of Minnesota,” Fleck said Friday, less than a week before Thursday’s season opener against Buffalo at TCF Bank Stadium.
The series of 30-minute episodes, which chronicled Fleck’s transition from Western Michigan to Minnesota during spring practice and fall training camp, also will be broadcast as repeats on ESPNU and the Big Ten Network through Thursday. Fleck and the Gophers program were the centerpiece, of course, but the series also delved into his family life, humanitarian efforts and coaching influences.
Fleck certainly saw the value in the exposure.
“You make sure people know that we’re going to be on TV at this time, and now Mom, Dad, brother, sister, the recruits are sitting in that room watching it, when no one else [among college coaches] can have the contact with them,” he said.
“That’s priceless. I don’t think you can ever put a price on that in terms of recruiting.”
The first two episodes drew 69,000 and 54,000 viewers, respectively, according to ESPN. Including reruns, the show will air 100 times across three networks.
Fleck said he hasn’t watched a lot of the show, but he’s well aware of a scene from the first episode, when a photo shows a young Fleck, who grew up west of Chicago, wearing a Wisconsin Badgers T-shirt.
“That’s great TV,” he joked. “My mom and dad had a million pictures laid out and they pick that one picture. Go figure, right? I can’t tell you how many tweets I had after that picture showed up.”
“I really enjoyed doing the show,” he added. “I enjoyed being able to share our life with our community, our state, our university.”