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.
“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.’’