Depending on how things play out over the next 24 hours or so, Minnesota’s search for a new head coach could be a relatively brief one.
The Gophers abruptly, but not surprisingly, fired Tracy Claeys as the program’s head football coach Tuesday evening. Almost immediately, the speculation centered on Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck as the top target as a replacement.
Reportedly, the two sides have at least taken one of the first steps toward a potential marriage, although it’s not been consummated.
I can confirm that #Gophers AD Mark Coyle and Pres Eric Kaler did meet with PJ Fleck today in Chicago. Nothing official yet….
— Joe Schmit (@JoeSchmitKSTP) January 5, 2017
Source familiar with Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck’s situation said Minnesota has not made an offer.
— JoeChristensen (@JoeCStrib) January 5, 2017
Coming off an undefeated regular season that culminated in both a MAC championship and New Year’s Six Bowl berth, Fleck has reached an agreement in principle on a new contract with WMU but hasn’t signed it yet as the two sides haggle over pay for his assistant coaches. That new deal came amidst speculation that had Fleck connected to such jobs as Purdue and Oregon.
Others mentioned as potential candidates at Minnesota include former LSU head coach Les Miles, former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl.
Regardless of who ultimately takes over, that coach will be entering a toxic situation that includes current and former football players — the latter of whom nearly followed through on their threat to boycott their bowl game this year in the wake of a sexual assault scandal — extremely angry over how the events of recent months unfolded. Claeys’ predecessor, Jerry Kill, added to the toxicity by publicly vowing to never step foot back in the stadium because of how athletic director Mark Coyle handled the situation.
(Tip O’ the Cap: FootballScoop.com)