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Minnesota Football: Western Michigan allegedly talked to Minnesota about PJ Fleck

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Someone at Western Michigan (allegedly) thinks Coach Fleck did something.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing like a good non-story to carry you through the weeks before Spring Practices begin. As I’m guessing many of you have read by now, a source around Western Michigan thinks Coach Fleck has been up to some shady dealings. What kind of shady dealings? Secondary violation level kind. Is there proof of these alleged shady dealings? Maybe? Who knows.

Before I get too sarcastic let’s back up and take a look at what is going on here.

What is being alleged

On Tuesday night, WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, MI put up a confusing and not well organized report that accused Coach Fleck of illegal contact with now former Western Michigan linebacker Robert Spillane:

Newschannel 3 has learned that Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck is answering questions about his alleged recruitment of now former Western Michigan linebacker Robert Spillane.

Sources are telling Newschannel 3 that Spillane, who received his release from the Broncos football program on Monday, was contacted by Fleck about playing at Minnesota, prior to receiving his release from the Broncos football program.

How did WWMT know what Fleck was doing? Who was asking Fleck the questions? Why should we trust their sources? WWMT’s post was lacking in some key areas.

Thankfully Tony Paul of the Detroit News was around to write a quality version of the story:

Officials from Western Michigan have contacted Minnesota’s athletic department with concerns football coach P.J. Fleck has had illegal contact with at least one of his former players, a source told The Detroit News on Wednesday.

The source, in position to know about such conversations, requested anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding such allegations.

[snip]

The concerns were raised in the wake of star Western Michigan linebacker Robert Spillane’s announcement this week that he is seeking a transfer.

Western Michigan has granted the transfer with zero restrictions, meaning he can play at Minnesota, or another Mid-American Conference school.

Spillane will not be transferring to Minnesota, according to the source, nor did Spillane express explicitly to Western Michigan officials that he was seeking to continue his playing career at Minnesota.

Still, Minnesota officials had assured Western Michigan officials an investigation would take place, according to the source.

Thanks to Tony we know the full scope of what is being alleged and we’re given a sense of who the source is/why they would know. As a result, we have enough information to decide for ourselves whether to believe the source.

I for one do believe Western Michigan has contacted Minnesota. The fact that such contact seems to have taken place does not signify that any rule breaking actually happened, just that someone at WMU thought it did.

This seemed like the end of it, but when preparing this post I found that WWMT offered another poorly organized story this morning that include some more unclearly sourced details:

On Tuesday night Newschannel 3 reported that P.J. Fleck was answering questions regarding his recruitment of now former Western Michigan linebacker Robert Spillane.

On Wednesday Newschannel 3 confirmed that the University of Minnesota is investigating Coach Fleck for his contact with, and/or alleged recruitment of, multiple Bronco football players.

Newschannel 3 has learned that Western Michigan University contacted Minnesota with concerns that Fleck had spoken, not just to Spillane, who was given his release from the Broncos football program on Monday, but with other current Western Michigan players.

Newschannel 3 has also learned that in response, Minnesota checked the phones of Fleck and his coaching staff.

Is this information from the same source as before? We don’t know. What is the source’s connection to everything? We don’t know. Why would this source know what the University of Minnesota is allegedly doing?

I’m not actually saying WWMT is wrong here. The idea that WMU might have also alleged other contacts and that in response Minnesota checked Fleck’s phone is all very plausible to me. That said, WWMT does a terrible job writing stories based on anonymous sources. My hope is that Tony Paul will be back to update us again later today.

Did Fleck break any NCAA rules?

I have no idea and neither does anyone else right now. These are simply allegations. It’s important to note that none of the sources in Michigan have said that Western Michigan provided any evidence of wrongdoing, just that Minnesota was contacted and that some form of investigation may have taken place.

Minnesota has flatly denied that Fleck is recruiting any Western Michigan players. Robert Spillane has said his transfer has nothing to do with Minnesota.

That’s it. That’s everything as of now.

Is this a big deal?

Right now? Nope. Not at all. Again, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing and none of the anonymous sources are alleging that there is proof of any wrongdoing.

Let me be clear, I would never condone the alleged behavior. If it’s true then Fleck screwed up and given the current climate around screwing up at the U he will rightfully hear about it from AD Mark Coyle. That doesn’t make it a big deal.

If the allegations were proven true, this would be a minor secondary violation. Minnesota would self report it to the NCAA, Coach Fleck would get a stern talking to from Coyle, Reusse would do Reusse things on Twitter, Western Michigan fans would act smug, and a month later everyone except the WMU fans and Reusse will have moved on.

Seriously. Most of us would be annoyed and then we’d remember there are actual problems in the world (heck, just in the sports world) that matter way more.

Are there examples of people overreacting to the reports that I can mock for my own enjoyment?

Oh you better believe there are.

First up is a MAC fan over at Hustle Belt. His response to HB’s post on the reports was wonderfully illogical:

Let me translate that:

  • If Fleck is innocent he must prove it by showing everyone information that by definition could not exist due to his innocence.
  • Ironically, the person wants Fleck to commit an NCAA violation (coaches can’t talk about potential recruits before they sign with the school) to show everyone evidence that can’t exist if he’s innocent.
  • The unspoken threat here is that if Fleck doesn’t use the non-existent information to commit an NCAA violation he will be judged guilty and his punishment will be that an anonymous commentor at a blog will be #madonline.

Our next winner is a Michigan sports shock jock who took the initial report and...inflated things a bit:

It’s important to note that my unnamed sources in Michigan tell me that this guy makes Reusse look milquetoast. In other words I’ll be watching his Twitter feed for the same reasons people watch crappy reality TV...mindless entertainment via dumb people doing dumb things.

Why are you still writing?

I dunno, I find this who situation wildly overblown and it entertains me.

TL;DR

Western Michigan probably contacted Minnesota alleging that Coach Fleck illegally contacted at least one WMU player. Cell phones may have been examined. No one has suggested there is any proof of this allegation. Even if it were to be proven true it’s a minor violation that will be forgotten by most before summer starts.