Barring an unforeseen turnaround, the Gophers football program's best years are several decades in the past.
Their seven national titles -- five of them between 1934 and 1941, and the most recent in 1960 -- sometimes seem to serve as an anchor for the modern-day reality of the program.
It's not realistic to think the Gophers will compete for seven more national titles. A modern day dream might be to have a team every five years that's good enough to chase a spot in the expanded 12-team college football playoff.
That reality tends to obscure, though, the relatively solid footing the program has found in recent decades. If we can forget about most of the Tim Brewster Era -- a memory trick most of us would enjoy -- we find a program that has been downright decent for most of the last quarter-century.
That includes the recent run for head coach P.J. Fleck, who produced 29 total wins in the three full seasons between 2019 and 2022. The program has been pretty good. The facilities are, dare we say, elite?
There are better jobs Fleck could realistically leave for, but not more than a handful.
But yes, old habits die hard. And every job opening that produces a list of potential candidates with Fleck's name on it becomes a source of worry to some fans -- as Patrick Reusse and I talked about on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast.
The latest proof was a 24-hour tempest in a teapot: On Friday, we learned UCLA coach Chip Kelly was bolting to become Ohio State's offensive coordinator. Fleck was listed as a top potential replacement at UCLA by several outlets.
The Gophers coach let it simmer for a bit, but by Saturday evening Fleck took time out from vacation to post this on Twitter/X: "Honored to be the Head Football Coach at Minnesota!! Ready for an ELITE 2024 season!! Now, back to our wedding anniversary trip!!"
Fleck shutting down those rumblings wasn't surprising, and we might never know how serious any of it was anyway. What might be a revelation to some is this: Minnesota is a much better job than UCLA, and Fleck leaving would have been bad for both the Gophers and the coach.
UCLA's finances are a mess. Their name, image and likeness money is seemingly nonexistent. Their home stadium (the Rose Bowl) is 26.6 miles from their campus and was half-full on average last year. Whatever glory days existed are several decades old.
And now they are making a jump into the Big Ten. They have sunshine to sell, and not much else. Fleck has it better now than he would there, and the Gophers will benefit from continuity and stability.
Feel free to worry that Fleck might someday leave for a better job. Just make sure it's one that's actually worth it.
Here are four more things to know today:
- Reusse and I of course also talked about the Super Bowl, and he also had some good perspectives on the Twins after arriving early in Florida ahead of spring training.
- What's next for the 49ers after coming up short Sunday?
- The Gophers men's basketball team's loss to Iowa on Sunday after leading by 20 points is one that hurts. It might hurt even more on Selection Sunday.
- Star Tribune Vikings writer Ben Goessling will join Tuesday's podcast to talk through all sorts of Vikings offseason scenarios. The new league year starts in a month, and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is on the clock with a lot of big decisions.