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Fleck in documentary finale: 'It's not little old Minnesota anymore'

Wednesday night marked the final episode of “Being P.J. Fleck,’’ a four-part documentary that followed the Gophers’ new football coach during his first spring practice and training camp in Minnesota.

While last week’s episode focused on Fleck and family, the finale Wednesday was all about promoting the Gophers program. It featured several practice shots, interviews with players and a behind-the-scenes look at the university’s new Athletes Village that's under construction.

Here are some of the highlights:

** During a public appearance while speaking to fans, Fleck acknowledged how often people bring up their desire for the Gophers to go to the Rose Bowl and to beat Wisconsin. That’s understandable, given Minnesota’s last Rose Bowl appearance came after the 1961 season and the fact that the Badgers own a 13-game winning streak against the Gophers.

“Coach, win a Rose Bowl before I die,’’ Fleck quotes a fan. Not missing a beat, the coach then asks the fan, “How old are you?’’

As for the Badgers, Fleck put out this hypothetical question:

“If I go 1-11 for four years and all I got to do is beat the Badgers [each year], do I get to keep my job?’’

When the fan answers yes, Fleck enthusiastically responds, “I gotta set you up with [athletic director] Mark Coyle.''

** Fleck identifies his pet peeve. “Empty hand sanitizer dispensers,’’ he says to defensive end Carter Coughlin during team stretching. “… I shake a lot of hands.’’

** The Athletes Village is front and center for Fleck, and he calls it a “cutting-edge game-changer. The university made football incredibly important.''

His other telling quote on the village: “We will win championships, and this is gonna help us. It’s not little old Minnesota anymore.’’

** The episode showed Fleck giving added attention and instruction to defensive tackle Merrick Jackson, putting the onus on him to be more consistent. “If he thought I was doing the best that I could do, he wouldn’t be pushing me,’’ Jackson said, later adding, “Coach Fleck’s personality is like being in a tornado.’’ When Jackson made a big play during practice, Fleck loudly congratulated him and jumped on his back in celebration.

** Joe Novak, Fleck’s head coach when he was a wide receiver at Northern Illinois, had one critique of Fleck. “I’d like to see him tone down the rhetoric, but that’s just me,’’ the old-school Novak said.

** Fleck closed the show saying that he and his wife, Heather, over the past couple of years made a list of eight programs for which they would leave Western Michigan, and Minnesota was on that list.

Why Minnesota?

“This is why it’s on the list,’’ a hard hat-wearing Fleck said while showing off the under-construction indoor practice facility. “It’s a sleeping giant, and we’re gonna wake it up.’’

Gophers turn Victory Walk into 'Ski-U-March'; Fleck adds radio show

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck wants to keep his program in the spotlight, and he’ll do that locally with a radio show and a TV show.

The Gophers announced that “Gopher Football Weekly with P.J. Fleck’’ will debut at 7 p.m. Monday on KFXN Radio (100.3-FM) and will air live on Tuesdays throughout the season. The first show will be taped, but the rest on Tuesdays will be live from noon to 1 p.m. at Joe Senser’s Sports Theater in Roseville. Fans are encouraged to attend.

Mike Grimm, the radio play-by-play announcer for the Gophers, will be the host, and Ch. 4 personality Mark Rosen will be the co-host.

The live Tuesday shows start Sept. 5 and run through Nov. 21, expect for Sept. 18, which is the Gophers’ bye week.

TV show, too

Earlier, the Gophers announced that “The P.J. Fleck Show’’ will debut on KSTP-TV (Ch. 9) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. After the debut show, the 30-minute program will air at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays on Ch. 9, with a repeat at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays on WFTC (Ch. 29).

Fleck will be joined by Ch. 9 sports anchor Hobie Artigue, Gophers and NFL wide receiver Ron Johnson and 100.3 radio's Justin Gaard.

Changes to game day

The Gophers last week announced some changes to the game day experience at TCF Bank Stadium.

A new Ski-U-March will take the place of the former Victory Walk. The team still will greet fans and enter the stadium along with the spirit squad and the band before the game. The Ski-U-March will be held at the same time as the Victory Walk, 2.5 hours prior to kickoff, but the route will now bring the team into TCF Bank Stadium through the Lake of the Woods entrance on the east (closed bowl) end of the stadium, off 23rd Ave. SE near the Gold and Gopher Lots and the student entrance at Gate C.

On Oak Street, the front plaza and lawn of 3M Arena at Mariucci will be host to a pregame celebration before every game, the Gopher Garden Pre-Game Fan Fest. The venue will open three hours before kickoff and feature entertainment for all ages. Food trucks will line up outside the front doors, with beverages available for sale inside the arena. Oak Street will remain closed to vehicle traffic before Gophers football games. The Gopher Garden also will host the Gopher Tailgate Radio Show, which is broadcast live on KFXN and the Gopher Radio Network.

In addition, four new food vendors will operate out of storefront shells in the West Plaza: Ike’s Restaurant, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Curds & Cakes, and Jax Café.

The changes will begin with the Aug. 31 season opener against Buffalo.

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