University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle announced today that P.J. (Philip John) Fleck has been named head football coach at the University of Minnesota. The University and Fleck have agreed to a five-year term.
Fleck comes 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 last 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 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 (MAC) championship game before ending the season with a narrow bowl game defeat to Wisconsin.
“P.J. is a proven winner and a strong leader. He’s built a unique, positive culture that gets the best out of his students on the field and in the classroom,” said Coyle. “His infectious energy and passion make him a terrific coach and dynamic recruiter. I am excited he will be leading the Gophers for years to come."
Fleck, 36, is one the youngest and brightest minds in the game. He was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2016 and this year led the Broncos to their first MAC Championship since 1988.
Earning FBS Region 3 Coach of the Year from the American Football Coaches Association, Fleck was also named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award and the George Munger Award after Western Michigan became the first team in MAC history to win each of its eight league games by 14 or more points.
Off the field, Western Michigan had a program-record seven student-athletes named to the 2016 MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete team and the Bronco team posted a 3.14 program GPA in its most recent semester.
“It’s an honor to coach at Minnesota and be part of the Big Ten conference,” said Fleck. “I want to thank president Eric Kaler, athletic director Mark Coyle and the Board of Regents for this opportunity. I also want to thank Western Michigan, my players and the great fans and city of Kalamazoo for a wonderful four years.
“I look forward to meeting my new players and getting to know them as quickly as possible. I am excited to put together a staff and turn my efforts to recruiting, but also want Gopher fans to know that my wife, Heather, and I and our four children will be visible in the community and we are eager to connect with them. I am ready to go. Ski-U-Mah!”
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 in 2006.
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. He ranks in the top five in Northern Illinois history in career receptions (179) and receiving yards (2,162). Fleck holds the school record for punt returns (87) and ranks second in punt return yards (716). He earned First Team All-Mid-American Conference in 2003 and was named Academic All-MAC and Second Team CoSIDA Academic All-American. He graduated in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
Fleck played the 2004-05 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. 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 is one of a select few college football coaches to have played and coached in the NFL.
Fleck and his wife, Heather, have four children, Gavin, Carter, Paisley (P.J.) and Harper.
2017- Minnesota, Head Coach
2013-17 Western Michigan, Head Coach
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Wide Receivers Coach
2010-11 Rutgers, Wide Receivers Coach
2009 Northern Illinois, Recruiting Coordinator, Wide Receivers Coach
2007-08 Northern Illinois, Wide Receivers Coach
2006 Ohio State, Graduate Assistant