When University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle approached P.J. Fleck earlier in the week to talk about a contract extension, the Gophers’ first-year football coach didn’t hesitate.
“It was definitely easy to sit there and say ‘Yes’ to the University of Minnesota,” Fleck said. “I give our administration a lot of credit.”
The university announced Wednesday that Fleck had agreed to a one-year contract extension that runs through the 2022 season, adding a year to his original, five-year, $18 million deal.
The financial terms of the original deal also were extended, without a raise. A $50,000 salary increase was built into Fleck’s contract, which will now pay him $3.75 million in the extended season of 2022. Including this season, the U has committed to six seasons and $21.75 million with Fleck.
The timing of the extension works out well for Fleck, who will hit the road recruiting Sunday with college football’s early national signing period (Dec. 20-22) quickly approaching. Fleck’s extension covers potential four-year careers of high school recruits in the Class of 2019.
“It always helps to know that people are going to be around for a very long time,” he said.
This fall, Fleck’s name has been mentioned in speculation about openings at various schools — just as it was a year ago, after he led Western Michigan to a 13-1 record and a Cotton Bowl berth — but he wouldn’t comment when asked if he had been contacted by other schools.
“I wanted to make it very clear that I wanted to be at the University of Minnesota,” Fleck said. “… I won’t comment on all those things that are rumors, speculation, contact, no contact. I’m at the University of Minnesota. That’s the only school I worry about.”
Fleck, who turns 37 on Nov. 29, also said it was Coyle, not he, who broached the extension subject.
“No, you don’t go and ask for an extension as a coach. You never do that,” he said. “This was something that was brought to me by Mark Coyle, and I was very honored to be able to receive the news.”
Coyle did not take questions Wednesday but issued a statement: “When we hired Coach Fleck, I talked about his authentic energy and passion, and his dedication to building a unique team culture. This year, I have seen our students connect with his energy and embrace that culture. From the commitment and hard work of our current students, to building a nationally ranked recruiting class that will be among the best in program history, I have seen the foundation of what Coach Fleck is building, and I’m looking forward to supporting him for years to come.”
In Fleck’s first year at Minnesota, the Gophers have had an up-and-down season. They are 5-6 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten entering the regular-season finale against unbeaten and fifth-ranked Wisconsin on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers need an upset victory to secure a sixth win needed for bowl eligibility.
The Gophers’ positives this season have included the 54-21 thrashing of Nebraska on Nov. 11, along with a 3-0 nonconference record highlighted by a 48-14 victory at Oregon State. Fleck also was the first Gophers coach to win his Minnesota debut since John Gutekunst in 1985, and his 3-0 start was the first for a Gophers coach since Murray Warmath started 4-0 in 1954.
On the flip side are the Gophers’ 2-6 Big Ten record, blowout losses at Michigan (33-10) on Nov. 4 and at Northwestern (39-0) last week. They also lost 31-24 at home to Maryland, which scored the winning touchdown with 1 minute, 10 seconds left, and 31-17 at Purdue after taking a 17-16 lead with 2:26 to play.
“I know there’s going to be people that’ll be really excited,” Fleck said. “I know there’s people who’ll be, ‘Oh no, we’ve gotta have this guy again.’ Change is hard. It has been for everybody. Hopefully, you see how it’s changing. If you don’t, you will see in the future.”