Gopher AD Mark Coyle addresses the possible contract extension for P.J. Fleck

"We continue to have those conversations"

The Morning News with Dave Lee
November 05, 2019 - 9:14 am

(Getty Images / Hannah Foslien / Stringer)

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With rumors now swirling that Gopher Football head coach P.J. Fleck is in line for a contract extension, Gopher Athletic Director Mark Coyle expressed to Dave Lee on WCCO Tuesday morning that he expects Fleck to stay in Minnesota.

Fleck and the 8-0 Gophers host Penn State Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in one of the biggest games the U has played in the last 60 years.  

When asked if a contract extension is coming, Coyle didn't directly say it was happening, but did say that conversations are currently happening between Fleck and the University. 

RELATED: P.J. Fleck says he plans to stay in Minnesota "for a long time."

"What I can tell you is obviously, you know, PJ's been very, very public about how much he and Heather loved being here," said Coyle.  "They have exceeded all of our expectations in terms of what they've brought to our program. If you look at our football program, we've had our highest grade point average. Obviously we know we have a big weekend against Penn state. A big opportunity against them. Just very grateful for coach Fleck and, and obviously he and I always have conversations. We, we've done extensions each of the first two years he's been here and we continue to have those conversations.  Again, our goal is to make sure we just show how much we appreciate what he and Heather have done for our program and more importantly, what our student athletes are doing to give us this opportunity to have a big weekend against Penn State."

Dave asked Coyle if there was a timeline to geta deal done.

"We continue to have conversations, Dave, and when we have something to announce, I promise you we'll let you know," Coyle said.

Extensions for coaches with existing contracts are nothing new in the world of college athletics, especially football.  As Coyle noted, Fleck has had extensions done in his first two years and it looks like it will happen in year three as well.  

"If you look across our 25 programs, we have wonderful coaches in place who do a really, really good job," Coyle told Dave Lee. "And we've been able to, in my three and a half years here, we've had contract extensions with a lot of our coaches, whether it be Coach McCutcheon and our volleyball program, which is doing a phenomenal job. I think they've won six in a row after winning against Purdue this weekend, who's a ranked team. And you know, Brad Frost had a great weekend and women's hockey taking five out of six points from Wisconsin. We've done a contract extension with him. So we'd done contracts extensions with a lot of our coaches. And as we've mentioned, we've extended PJ each year after his first two years here.

Coyle also talked about making the University of Minnesota a place where coaches stay. 

"Again, our goal is we, if you remember when I was hired Dave, I talked about wanting to make Minnesota a destination school.  I didn't want to be a transitional school. We want to bring coaches here who want to be here long term and want to be committed to the Gophers. And we thought, we've got a great group of coaches in place who can do that, serve our programs well."

Even as Coyle says they intend to keep him here, and Fleck says he "loves it here in Minnesota", his success is creating demand.  Just this weekend, reports were that Florida State, who just fired their head coach, was looking at Fleck.  Coyle says it's all speculation right now.

"Well, you know, it's all rumors and speculation. I went to grad school at Florida State and know that institution well and have a connection out there. But it's all speculation. This is kind of a silly time of year. If you talk to athletic directors across the country at this time of year when you have openings or so much attention paid to football, the visibility it has across the country and when openings happen, you see all types of names that come out. You see all types of scenarios of who's going where, how they're going to get there, et cetera. And again, our goal is to make sure that we take care of our coaches and we make Minnesota a destination school."

Buyouts have become a bigger part of contracts for college football coaches.  The cost for Florida State's buyout of fired coach Willie Taggart totals over $20 million.  That's $18 million for his Florida State contract, and another $3 million to end his contract with former team Oregon PLUS and additional $1.3 million Oregon owed to South Florida from 2016, that Florida State agreed to pay.  All that for a coach that lasted less than two years at the school.  

Coyle says buyouts are definitely part of the negotiations.  

"I think if you look at all the coaching contracts, and even my contract, Athletic Director contracts across the country, buyouts are a big part of those conversations in terms of if a coach decides to leave your institution early.  That's a big part of it. And then obviously when you have coaches, you provide them with guaranteed revenue too. So it's kind of a back and forth on both sides of those, on both sides of the contract."

Currently, Fleck is paid $3.6 for the season.  That ranks him 37th among the 130 FBS schools and 11th out of 14th in the Big Ten.  He was 5-7 in his first year at Minnesota, then took the Gophers to 7-6 and a bowl win.  They're ranked 13th in the country now, the highest since 2003 and has the Gophers 8-0 for the first time since 1941.  

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