Midco Presents “A Conversation with P.J. Fleck”
P.J. Fleck was named head football coach at Minnesota on January 6, 2017. Fleck, 39, is the
30th head coach in the program’s history. He has a career record of 52-37 and is 22-15 at
In 2019, Fleck led Minnesota to historic heights as the Gophers won 10 games in the regular
season for the first time since 1905. Minnesota won seven Big Ten games for the first time in
school history and Fleck was voted the Hayes-Schembechler Big Ten Coach of the Year and was
named the AFCA Region 3 Coach of the Year. He is also a finalist for the George Munger Award
and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.
Minnesota won four Big Ten games by at least 20 points for the first time since 1934 and beat
No. 5 Penn State at home. The Penn State win was Minnesota’s first win against a Top 5 five team
since it beat No. 2 Penn State on the road in 1999. It was Minnesota’s first home win against a
Top 5 team since it beat No. 1 Michigan 16-0 in 1977.
The Gophers ascended to No. 7 in the AP Poll, which was the team’s highest ranking since it
was No. 5 on Nov. 19, 1962. Minnesota was also ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoffs,
which is its highest CFP ranking in school history.
In 2018, Fleck led Minnesota to wins against Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Fresno State, Miami
(Ohio) and New Mexico State. The Gophers beat Georgia Tech 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl and
the 24-point margin of victory was the largest bowl win in school history.
Under Fleck, a young Minnesota team beat rival Wisconsin for the first time since 2003 and for
the first time on the road since 1994 to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The Gophers also downed
Purdue’s potent offense, as they held the Boilers to a season low in points (10) and yards (233).
Minnesota also beat Fresno State, which finished the season ranked No. 18, to give the Bulldogs
one of their two defeats on the season. The win against Fresno State also marked the first time
that Minnesota beat a team ranked in the final AP poll since 1999.
In 2017, Fleck led a young and inexperienced Gopher squad, as 49 of Minnesota’s 110 players
(44.5%) were freshmen and 76 (69%) were underclassmen. Fleck guided Minnesota to a 5-7
record and those five wins were the most by a first-year Gopher head coach new to the program
since the legendary Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954.
Fleck won his Gopher debut against Buffalo, which made him the school’s first head coach to
win his debut since John Gutekunst in 1986 (before Fleck, Minnesota’s six most recent head
coaches all lost their first game). Minnesota then posted a dominating 48-14 win at Oregon State,
which made Fleck the first Gopher coach to win a true road opener since 1954 when Warmath
and the Gophers won 46-7 at Pittsburgh.
Minnesota’s 34-point win at Oregon State was the Gophers’ tenth largest margin of victory in
a road game since 1920 and largest since 2006. The 48 points were the most the Gophers scored
on the road since they beat Northwestern 49-21 in 1980.
Minnesota posted three 30-point wins in 2017, as it beat Oregon State by 34, Nebraska by 33
and Middle Tennessee by 31. The last time Minnesota won three games by 30 points in the same
season was 2005 when it started the year with three straight with three straight 30-point wins
The Gophers beat Nebraska 54-21 in Fleck’s first season. The 54 points were the most that the
Gophers scored in a Big Ten game since they beat Indiana 63-26 in 2006. The 54 points were the
14th most scored by Minnesota since 1946 and the fifth most against a Big Ten opponent in the
Off the field, Fleck and his team can often be found at the University of Minnesota Masonic
Children’s Hospital and annually give back to the community by hosting a diaper drive, canned
food drive, school supplies drive and turkey drive. In the classroom, Minnesota has posted
program record GPAs under Fleck.
Fleck came to Minnesota after spending four years as the head coach at Western Michigan,
where he was 30-22 overall and 21-11 in the Mid-American Conference. While leading the
Broncos, Fleck authored one of the most memorable turnarounds in college football history. The
Broncos were 1-11 in his first year in 2013, but ended the 2016 season with a No. 12 ranking, a
13-1 record, a conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
The Broncos were 12-0 in the 2016 regular season and posted wins against Big Ten opponents
Northwestern and Illinois. Fleck then led his team to a 29-23 win against Ohio in the Mid-
American Conference championship game before ending the season with a narrow bowl game
defeat to Wisconsin. Fleck was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2016 (2014 as well) after leading
the Broncos to their first MAC Championship since 1988.
Prior to his time at Western Michigan, Fleck served as the wide receivers coach for the NFL’s
Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and coached the receivers at Rutgers from 2010-11. He coached
receivers and was the recruiting coordinator at Northern Illinois in 2009 and tutored the receivers
for the Huskies from 2007-08. Fleck’s coaching career began at Ohio State as a graduate assistant
Fleck played receiver at Northern Illinois from 1999-2003 and helped lead the Huskies to a No.
10 ranking, a 10-2 record and wins against Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State in his final season.
Fleck played the 2004-05 seasons with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. He signed with the 49ers
as a free agent in 2004 and spent most of his time on the practice squad before seeing action
against New England late in the season. He spent the 2005 season on the injured reserve roster
and in 2006 he stopped playing professionally and started his coaching career.
Fleck and his wife, Heather, have four children, Gavin, Carter, Paisley (P.J.) and Harper.
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