The University of Minnesota and head football coach P.J. Fleck have agreed have agreed to a new seven-year contract. This agreement, pending Board of Regents approval, will keep Fleck in Maroon and Gold through the 2029 season.
The 2022 campaign was the sixth for Fleck at Minnesota, where he holds a record of 43-27. He is already fifth in program history for wins and sixth in Big Ten wins (26) and games coached (70). Fleck’s .614 win percentage is third best among the 11 Minnesota coaches with at least 45 games under their helm behind only Henry L. Williams (.786, 1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (.716, 1932-41, ’45-50). In his 10th season overall as a college head coach, Fleck is 73-49 (.598) overall and has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year once and the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year twice.
Fleck and Williams, who coached in the early 1900s, are the only two Gopher coaches to record nine or more wins in a season twice, as Minnesota posted 11 wins in 2019 and nine in 2021 under Fleck. The 11 wins in 2019 were the most for a Minnesota team since 1904 when that year’s team went 13-0 under Williams. Fleck is 3-0 in bowl games and those three wins are tied with Glen Mason (3-4 bowl record during his time coaching the Gophers from 1997-2006) for the most in school history.
“This is all about cultural sustainability,” said Fleck. “We have talked about that from day one, and this new contract is a commitment to continuing to change our best academically, athletically, socially and spiritually. It is also a commitment to our elite staff and our tremendous fans. During the last six years, we have been able to do some amazing things at Minnesota, some of which have not been accomplished in more than 115 years. It is a tremendous honor to lead this football program, and our goal is to compete for championships every year. We are so grateful to the Board of Regents, President Joan Gabel, Mark Coyle and our staff for allowing us to do so. Heather and I and our family love living here and we are excited to continue on this journey with the entire state of Minnesota.”
Minnesota finished the 2022 regular season with an 8-4 record and has now won at least eight games in each of the last three full seasons. In addition to winning eight games this year, Minnesota went 9-4 last season and 11-2 in 2019 (the 2020 season was limited to only seven games due to the Covid-19 pandemic) for a record of 28-10. The last time the Gophers won at least eight games in three consecutive full seasons was 1903-05 when Minnesota was competing against high school teams.
During his tenure, Fleck has coached four All-Americans, eight Academic All-Americans, 76 All-Big Ten honorees (eight First-Team selections) and 268 Academic All-Big Ten performers. He also coached Minnesota’s all-time winningest quarterback in Tanner Morgan (33-14 record) and has had the Gophers ranked as high as No. 7 in the AP Poll and No. 8 in the College Football Playoffs.
“I am excited that P.J., Heather and their family will continue to call Minnesota home,” said Director of Athletics Mark Coyle. “What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable. He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially. This year alone, a Gopher was either a semifinalist or a finalist for six different major college football awards, ranging from the best center in the nation to the best running back in the nation to the most impactful community service leader in the nation. P.J. consistently builds a team that Minnesotans can take pride in and one that competes for championships. I am grateful to President Gabel and the Board of Regents for their continued support, and I look forward to Coach Fleck continuing to lead the Gophers for a long time.”
Fleck was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2019 and paced Minnesota to two top-10 wins (Penn State and Auburn) in the same season since 1956 and led Minnesota to its first New Year’s Day bowl win (2020 Outback Bowl against Auburn) since 1962.
Minnesota is winning games away from home as well under Fleck. The Gophers have gone 17-6 (.739) in their last 23 games away from home. That stretch, which began with a 37-15 win at Wisconsin on Nov. 24, 2018, is the best 23-game stretch away from home in team history. Since the 2018 win at Wisconsin, the only Big Ten team with more wins or a higher win percentage away from home is Ohio State at 21-3 (.875).
The Gophers have won 26 Big Ten games under Fleck, but they have been terrific in nonconference play too. Minnesota is 17-1 all-time against nonconference opponents with Fleck as head coach. The Gophers are 6-0 against teams from Power 5 conferences and have wins against opponents from the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.
Fleck has turned Minnesota into an NFL pipeline as well, as the Gophers have had 12 players selected in the last four drafts. That is the most selections in school history during a four-year period since the draft was reduced to seven rounds in 1994. This includes the team’s first first round pick (Rashod Bateman in 2021) since 2006 and the team’s first offensive lineman drafted (Daniel Faalelein in 2022) since 2006.
Off the field, Fleck’s program has posted record GPAs and continually gives back to the community by hosting diaper drives, turkey drives, a school supply drive and a canned food drive. Fleck and the team also have a strong philanthropic connection to M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital.
(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)