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P.J. Fleck settles up on $600K owed to Western Michigan

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The financial score between P.J. Fleck and his former employer has officially been settled.

According to mlive.com, Fleck, athletic director Kathy Beauregard confirmed to the website, has satisfied the $600,000 obligation owed to Western Michigan.  Fleck owed the money as a buyout after leaving as WMU’s head football coach for the same job at Minnesota in early January.

The news comes nearly a month to the day that WMU announced that Fleck would be taking his “Row the Boat” mantra with him to Minnesota.  In return for the rights to the very personal saying, Fleck will make an annual payment of $10,000 over the next five years, with the $50,000 being used to support a scholarship for a WMU football player.

In his four years at WMU, Fleck guided the Broncos to a 30-22 record.  The 2016 season launched Fleck to national prominence as he guided the Broncos to a perfect 13-0 regular season that included a MAC championship.  That earned WMU the Group of Five’s New year’s Six berth, although the perfect season and Cinderella story was spoiled by Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.

Fleck takes over a program in Minneapolis that went 9-4 last season.

Minnesota to self-report ‘minor’ violation to NCAA involving P.J. Fleck, ex-WMU player

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A situation involving a player who left P.J. Fleck‘s former football program is causing some consternation for the head coach’s current one.

In very late February, Western Michigan announced that Robert Spillane (pictured) had asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship in order to transfer to another school.  It was rumored that the starting linebacker could join his former coach, Fleck, in Minnesota; it was further rumored that Fleck had been actively recruiting Spillane and other Bronco football players, the former before he had been given a release.

On Twitter, Spillane attempted to brush aside the suggestions that his move from Kalamazoo had anything to do with his former coach.

In a seemingly related matter, both the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press are reporting that the university will self-report to the NCAA what it’s describing as a “minor” violation involving contact with one of his former players. The former player was not identified by name.

Any contact between a coach and a player on scholarship at another university is strictly prohibited.

From the Pioneer Press:

From my understanding, even if a coach sends a former student-athlete a text that even says ‘happy birthday,’ that’s a violation,” [athletic director Mark] Coyle said.

Coyle said he has spoken to Broncos athletics director Kathy Beauregard “and reassured her we are not recruiting students from Western Michigan.

The Gophers opened their first spring practice session under Fleck on Tuesday.

Western Michigan’s leading tackler granted release, will transfer

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The most productive player on the defensive side of the ball during Western Michigan’s breakout 2016 season is moving on.

The football program announced via its official Twitter account that Robert Spillane has asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship. A rising true senior, it’s unclear if the linebacker will be leaving WMU as a graduate transfer.

If he is, he’ll be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2017. If not, he’d have to sit out the upcoming season before using his final season of eligibility in 2018.

Last season, Spillane led the Broncos in tackles with 111 — next closest was Asantay Brown‘s 95 — while he was second in tackles for loss with 10.5 and tied for third in sacks with three. His three interceptions were tied for second as well. The last of those three picks came at the end of the MAC championship game that helped seal WMU’s win over Ohio.

The past three seasons, Spillane started 28 games for the Broncos. He started all 14 games last season.

UMass hires Ed Pinkham as defensive coordinator

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After floundering on defense the past three years, UMass’ change at the top on that side of the ball is official.

The football program, via a press release, announced Saturday that Mark Whipple has signed off on Ed Pinkham as his new defensive coordinator.  Pinkham replaces Tom Masella, who was ousted last month after three years on the job.

Whipple and Pinkham have a previous working relationship, serving on the same staff at New Hampshire in the late eighties.

“I’ve known Ed since we worked together at UNH,” Whipple said in a statement. “I have tremendous respect for his approach and how his defenses have always played. He brings a wealth of knowledge at the FBS level. He’s an outstanding recruiter and great leader of young men. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of our program as we head into winter conditioning and spring practice.”

Pinkham had spent the past three seasons as the coordinator at Western Michigan.  Last season, the Broncos finished 16th nationally in scoring defense at 19.5 points per game.

The Minutemen in 2016 were 108th in the same category at 35.5 points per game.  The previous two seasons, they were 93rd (31.4) and 105th (33.0).

“I’m extremely excited to be back in New England and renewing relationships with coaches I’ve worked with in the past at previous stops,” Pinkham said. “I coached against UMass so I’m aware of the strong football tradition that exists here. I’m excited to play a role in achieving the goals that we set as a staff and as a program.”

Pinkham has also served as the coordinator at Rutgers (2009-10) and as secondary coach at Minnesota (1989-91) during a coaching career that began in 1975.

WMU gets $50k for scholarships, P.J. Fleck gets ‘Row the Boat’ mantra

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The boat rowing for P.J. Fleck will officially and fittingly continue in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When Fleck moved from Western Michigan to Minnesota earlier this year, it was uncertain if his “Row the Boat” mantra, which had been trademarked by WMU, would follow the head coach.  As the two sides negotiated an agreement, all signs were pointing to the slogan, which Fleck adopted after his infant son died of a heart condition, shifting from Kalamazoo to Minneapolis.

Wednesday, the shifting has been made official as WMU announced in a press release that “‘Row the Boat,’ the three-word mantra that became the catch phrase for Western Michigan University football success, will become the legal intellectual property of… P.J. Fleck.” The agreement allows Fleck to “legally assume ownership of the phrase and be able to use or transfer it at will.” The university will be permitted to use the slogan, but only for “recognizing and celebrating Fleck’s tenure at WMU and the teams he coached.”

In return for the rights to the mantra, Fleck will make an annual payment of $10,000 over the next five years, with the $50,000 being used to support a scholarship for a WMU football player.

The trademark will technically be transferred to the Harlan Sports, the company of Fleck’s agent Bryan Harlan.  It’s expected the trademarked phrase will be used by Fleck’s new employer, with the head coach’s permission.