In the time leading up to P.J. Fleck being named Gophers football coach Friday, Minnesota fans picked up and ran with the coach's "Row the Boat" mantra. Somewhere along the line, even, the clever #RowsBowl hashtag was created on Twitter.
Now that he's here, Fleck intends to keep using the deeply personal slogan — while also mixing it in with Minnesota's "Ski-U-Mah."
That is, assuming Western Michigan, which holds trademark rights on "Row the Boat," allows its former coach to bring it with him.
"It's a major staple of my own personal life," said Fleck, whose Twitter bio (@Coach_Fleck) now reads: Head Football Coach at the University of Minnesota! Ski-U-Mah! Row The Boat!
In past interviews, Fleck has explained how the phrase has roots in the death of his newborn son in 2011.
"It's a never-give-up mantra," Fleck said in an ESPN video. "I lost my second son to a heart condition. As you hold your son as he takes his last breath, that's pretty tough to go through — and your whole life changes. … You're living your life for someone else."
And that sentiment encapsulates what it means to be on a team.
"When you're rowing a boat, you can't see where you're going. … Your back is toward the future, you can't control it. You're rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can control," Fleck said. "But you're looking at the past, which is the only thing you can't change — but you have to learn from it."
Fleck made numerous "Row the Boat" references Friday during his introductory news conference at TCF Bank Stadium. He even noted that when he and his wife, Heather, were researching the meaning of "Ski-U-Mah" on Wikipedia, they were heartened to find out the origins have to do with a canoe race.
"Don't ignore the signs," Fleck said Friday, drawing laughs at his news conference.