As of early Sunday evening, Kirk Ciarrocca was a senior offensive analyst for the West Virginia football team.

Also as of early Sunday evening, Ciarrocca was Gophers coach P.J. Fleck's target to return to Minnesota to fill the vacant offensive coordinator's job.

And by the way, West Virginia and the Gophers on Sunday accepted bids to play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 28 in Phoenix, a turn of events that made for interesting news conferences with each head coach.

"It's a unique situation,'' Mountaineers coach Neal Brown responded when asked if Ciarrocca will be part of the West Virginia staff through the bowl game. "We're going to kind of work through that. This is maybe a first in my career. … We'll figure it out here in the next day or so.''

Fleck sees a resolution coming soon.

"We're working our way towards making a hire here very shortly,'' he said. "We've made a decision, but I'll keep that internal right now. Our staff knows what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. … I really like our plan as we move forward.''

Mike Sanford Jr. was the Gophers co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons, taking over for Ciarrocca, who left for Penn State following the 2019 regular season. After the Gophers struggled in the passing game this season, Fleck let Sanford go.

"I just felt like we needed a change on offense,'' Fleck said. "Mike is a tremendous person and a wonderful football coach. I just felt like we needed a new direction and leadership in that position.''

Fleck and Brown both have worked under Ciarrocca and have supervised him, too. Fleck was wide receivers coach at Rutgers in 2010, when Ciarrocca was the Scarlet Knights' offensive coordinator, then hired him to be his offensive coordinator at both Western Michigan and Minnesota. Brown was wide receivers coach at Delaware in 2005 when Ciarrocca was offensive coordinator.

"He's a class act, a wonderful human being,'' Fleck said of Brown. "He's an incredible football coach with a creative mind.''

Brown nearly hired Ciarrocca, 56, to be his offensive coordinator following the 2018 season, but the veteran opted to stay with the Gophers. When Ciarrocca was fired at Penn State following the 2020 season, Brown hired him for the analyst role.

"He's kind of been a mentor and a friend throughout my coaching career,'' Brown said. "Offensively, our philosophies are very similar. He's been a great help here, not only for me, but for our entire staff.''

Fleck on Morgan's return

Fleck also addressed the news that quarterback Tanner Morgan is returning for a sixth season with the Gophers in 2022.

"Tanner loves playing football, and I think Tanner wants to be able to make sure he can prolong his career so he can play football as many years as possible, whether that's college, whether that's at the next level and then get into coaching,'' Fleck said. "… He feels like coming back for another year is the best thing for him and his family and for the University of Minnesota.''

Fleck indicated Morgan will have to win the starting job next year. "There's always competition, and there always will be competition,'' Fleck said. "He's very aware of that.''


* Ashton Beers, a 6-5, 298-pound offensive lineman from Slinger, Wis., who had verbally committed to North Dakota State, announced on Twitter that he's changed his commitment to the Gophers. He has a three-star rating by

* Former Gophers defensive end MJ Anderson, who entered his name in the transfer portal in late November, announced on Twitter that he has committed to play at Iowa State.