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P.J. Fleck could soon be rowing his boat from Minnesota to Southern California.
The Golden Gopher head coach has been linked for USC’s opening in the aftermath of Clay Helton’s firing on Monday. Fleck has the second best odds behind Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. Dan Patrick reported today that Penn State’s James Franklin has mutual interest for the job, a sign that the search will have many suitors.
After all, USC is one of the premier college football programs historically and regarded as a top-5 job in the nation. Fleck, 40, has been at Minnesota since 2017, holding a 27-20 record, including a 11-2 season in 2019.
Fleck was head coach at Western Michigan from 2013-2016. Fleck went 1-11 in his first season, but led the Broncos to a 13-1 season and a Cotton Bowl appearance in 2016. Simply put, Fleck knows how to turn programs around. And do it with limited resources.
Fleck shut down rumors of leaving Minnesota in 2019 when he signed a seven-year, $33.25 million contract that runs through 2026. Should Fleck break the contract, he will have to pay $10 million as a penalty in the first year and $4.5 million in the second year. He will have to pay decreasing penalties in the years that follow.
Will the glitz and glamour of USC be enough to lure him out of Minnesota? It’s possible, as the cracks have already began to show at Minnesota. A 3-4 season in 2020 has been followed up with a 1-1 start this season. Most of the stars from the 2019 team has moved onto the NFL including: WR Tyler Johnson, WR Rashod Bateman and S Antoine Winfield Jr.
The advantages in recruiting are profound, as USC has the ability to have a top-10 recruiting class every year, while Minnesota will likely never find its way up that high. Fleck’s message has caught on at a school not known for football and would figure to do the same at USC in front of the biggest recruits in America.
USC will undergo a national search as athletic director Mike Bohn said on Monday and will feature some of the biggest names in coaching. Fleck will certainly be one of those.