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Ignore the P.J. Fleck to Tennessee talk

He isn’t going to Rocky Top. And if I’m wrong, it’s for reasons that mean there was nothing Minnesota could do about it anyway.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Minnesota vs Auburn Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Did you hear that Tennessee fired their head coach for cause (i.e. for being a low down dirty cheater)?

Did you hear that Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck is a candidate for the job (again)?

My guess is yes, you have.

There’s also a decent chance you’re one of the many people who seem to be freaking out about this. If you are, I have a simple message for you.


First off, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about this and in the grand scheme of things what P.J. Fleck chooses to do for money is really not something to care about. There is still a pandemic going on. I’m guessing that’s still impacting your life in some very specific ways. Your mental health and happiness will be greatly improved if you let go of worry for things you can’t control and focus on the things that you can.

Hopefully that reached some of you. For those who are still freaking out I’d like to draw your attention to the point Blake made back in 2017. You know, the last time everyone freaked out about Fleck to Tennessee.

It’s also extremely rare for a Big Ten head coach to leave for another Power 5 program, unless you’re Nick Saban or coaching for Wisconsin.

In the last 20 years, Big Ten football programs have fired 23 head coaches, six have retired or resigned, two have died, one has left to coach in the NFL, and three have departed their school for another Power 5 program.

Nick Saban, Bret Bielema, and Gary Anderson are the only 3 Big Ten coaches to leave for another Power 5 job since 1997. As Blake noted, two of those guys had Barry Alvarez meddling in their day to day affairs. The other is one of the greatest college football coaches ever.

There is a reason Power 5 (especially Big Ten) coaches don’t hop that often. Unless they’re at Kansas (or its equivalent), there are few jobs better than the one they’re currently in. They are even less likely to hop into a job that is almost certain to face NCAA sanctions that the school documented and accused itself of.

That’s right, Tennessee fired Jeremy Pruitt by claiming he and his staff cheated. They can’t fight any potential NCAA penalties in the future because to do so would eliminate their defense of “for cause” in the firing. And that means they’d owe Pruitt a LOT of money, something they aren’t able to handle (apparently).

Why would Fleck take on a job at a school with national title expectations, no evidence from the last two decades of being able to attain that level of success, and a cloud of NCAA sanctions hanging over it? We’re not talking about a clearly better job here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pretending that overall Minnesota is a better job than Tennessee. What I’m saying is that Tennessee isn’t a slam dunk better job. We’re talking about a former blueblood facing NCAA penalties with an insane fan base and a tougher schedule every year than Minnesota’s.

Why would you leave stability with upside at Minnesota for that? I can think of only two reasons:

  1. He wants to coach in the SEC.
  2. Lots of money.

Here’s the rub. If Fleck is willing to leave for either of these reasons, then he has been gone since the day he arrived in Dinkytown. It was just a question of when. The Gophers are never going to play in the SEC, so y’all can do the math on that one. As for money? There’s no reason to pay Fleck more than he is making right now. He hasn’t earned it. If you do you risk becoming Purdue, overpaying for mediocre results just because another school came calling. And even if Mark Coyle wanted to overpay (spoiler: he doesn’t) I’m confident that Tennessee is crazy enough to make Fleck Top 10 in salary despite firing their last coach for cause to save money. Minnesota can’t match that.

The good news is that no one on the TDG staff thinks he wants to leave Minnesota for Tennessee for either of these reasons. The bad news is that we’re not psychic and we might be wrong. Which brings us back to what I said up top.


If Fleck is staying, there’s no point in stressing out. If Fleck is leaving, he’s already gone. At which point we’ll start up the coaching search posts and Mark Coyle will hire Lance Leipold away from Buffalo.