College football's offseason is known by those who cover the sport as "the silly season." Coaching searches can stray so far into the absurd without any hint of reality. Because why wouldn't Tony Dungy want to return to coach the Gophers whenever they have an opening?
That one is always good for a laugh.
Other times, the silly season makes perfect sense, and that can be especially maddening for fan bases (and athletic directors) with a coach whose name pops up in the rumor mill.
This is where the Gophers find themselves with P.J. Fleck.
A month ago, the NFL Network reported that one unnamed NFL team wanted to interview Fleck for its head coach job. That one was a head-scratcher.
Another report surfaced over the weekend that named Fleck as one of three coaches being vetted by the University of Tennessee for its opening. This one carries more logic.
No updates surfaced Monday, but my sources indicate that Fleck is not interested in that job. Fleck's agent Bryan Harlan declined to mention any school specifically but said in a phone conversation that he has received inquiries from multiple schools regarding Fleck the past few seasons.
Pace yourself, Gophers fans. Fleck's name being mentioned in coaching searches will become an annual deal, assuming his program avoids a nose-dive and remains competitive.
Fleck's profile is desirable to schools with programs in need of a jolt. He is relatively young, having turned 40 in November, but has been a head coach at two places. He loves to recruit. He's energetic. He connects with young people. He runs a tight ship in terms of discipline. He's a salesman for the school. And he's had success.
Here's the ultimate kicker: Nobody outside of our state borders views the Gophers program as a destination job. Not for a young coach who seems to be a climber.
The paranoia among Gophers fans any time a football or basketball coach has any semblance of success is predictable. They start fretting about a bigger, more successful program poaching their coach.
That line of thinking happened almost immediately with Fleck. Basically, right after his introductory news conference.
My advice is to relax. Let things play out. If Fleck decides to leave at some point, that probably means his program is in good shape for the next coach.
The coaching profession is a nomadic existence, with coaches hopping from one gig to the next, so I understand the nervousness that fans might feel. Usually, Gophers coaches move on after getting fired, not because of a better job.
Would Fleck have serious interest in Tennessee at this point? That would be a laughable question historically, but as a lifelong fan of Vols football, I'm not sure many head coaches would be interested in stepping into that current mess. The short version is that my beloved Volunteers have fallen on hard times, and picking themselves back up isn't something that will happen overnight.
Money seems to be no object in the SEC football universe so who knows what kind of offer they would be willing to make. It never hurts to listen to any job offer.
Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle gave Fleck a substantial raise late in the 2019 season, a seven-year contract worth $33.25 million. Handing him another raise on his $4.6 million salary because Tennessee showed interest probably wouldn't sit well with athletic department staffers who were forced to take pay cuts during the pandemic. There is no need to adjust his compensation right now.
Fleck on Monday posted a video on Twitter of his players' first week of winter workouts, which was a telltale sign that he has no plans to take the Tennessee job. He seems encouraged by what he is building here.
His name likely will circulate again next winter, especially if the Gophers bounce back following a disappointing pandemic season. This isn't a one-time cycle.