Thursday, November 14, 2019

PJ Fleck has Already Won

PJ has been working to the point of exhaustion capitalizing on the opportunity of the unexpected and remarkable 9-0 start to the season. Watching him appear on ESPN’s College Football Playoff rankings show this past Tuesday, he looked as if he hadn’t slept in days as the media roadshow to promote the hell out of the program reached a fever pitch. It shouldn’t be surprising that he’d be pressing, considering what he told Adam Rittenberg in the wake of beating #4 Penn State:

"It's been so long, but that's what's so fun about hope*,” Fleck said in his stadium office about two hours after Saturday's game. "I'm a Chicago Cubs fan. Everybody always said, 'The lovable losers,' and then all of a sudden, they did it. They got the right people, they got the right GM, they got the right manager, and then they found a way to put the right team together to do it.
"It's going to happen here, and we just want to do everything we can to get our shot at it. What you saw today is the hope for the future, to say it's not just what used to be, it's what's going to be."

Thing is, if you’re measuring a program by interest, fan or general, PJ has already succeeded at changing the narrative. The 9-0 start has catapulted the Gophers into such rarified air that, short of a narrowing list of postseason accomplishments, what else does PJ need to prove to people who matter?

If you’re a highly recruited athlete, what are things you could potentially care about when selecting between programs?
Say you’re Mark Coyle, Joan Gabel or a Regent? What matters most to you?
  • Increased exposure for the university using football as the “front porch?”
  • Selling out TCF Bank Stadium organically?
  • An uptick in both the quantity and quality of applicants?
  • More donations and pledges to the various university endowments?
The list of measurable accomplishments resulting from the 9-0 start point to a fanbase, state, and national media who are fully embracing the program.
  • The Gophers have more peak Google search traffic interest for the current team than Iowa or Wisconsin had during their recent undefeated regular seasons. 
  • Similarly, search traffic is comparable to Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State. This had never occurred, until now.
  • Other upstart teams, such as Baylor or Utah, are not generating the same search traffic buzz, nor are they generating as much engagement on social media (only LSU was higher this past weekend.)
  • TV ratings against Penn State were record-setting for both the network in the noon slot and for the Twin Cities metro. 
  • The Gophers were a major discussion topic for nearly every national sports media outlet and podcast.
  • The ESPN College Football Playoff Rankings show was, in effect, an hour-long Minnesota infomercial. 
  • National pundits carrying water for Fleck and the program, flat-out stating the Gophers ought to be ranked higher in the CFP rankings than Alabama(!), Georgia, Oregon and Utah based on resume.
  • The Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, selected Kirk Ciarroca as a semifinalist. Our players are also picking up national attention for individual awards.

In the wake of a program-defining win and validation of Fleck’s culture-building acumen, he’s been rewarded by a fanbase and state yearning for generations to go all-in on the team again. He’s earned the raise and extension his athletic director gave him in the week leading up to Penn State and drawing more free national exposure to the athletic department and university. 


In short, he’s done exactly what he was hired to do and has done so in less than 3 years. As the echoes of Minnesota’s rich but antiquated history are stirring in real-time, Fleck has firmly established himself as the face of a program finally worthy of national respect. It’s no longer a vision of a future state: the team, culture and coaching staff have already arrived, and delivered. The recruiting pitch — for both prospective student-athletes and assistant coaches — reflects actuals versus expected results. The Minnesota athletic department has tangible evidence for season ticket drives, donation campaigns, and other marketing efforts. Fans can finally latch on to a group of players, coaches, and culture that has accomplished things not seen in this town for almost a century. Decision-makers at the U can rest assured that Fleck will continue delivering on his promises, as even Regent Hsu — among the biggest of skeptics — acknowledged that Fleck has come through on nearly everything.

With a two-game lead in the division with 3 to play, a trip to Indianapolis -- and beyond -- would be the cherry on top an already amazing year. Fleck's playing with house money at this point; he's already won the hearts and minds of nearly everyone who cares.

* This is now the unofficial tagline of Still Got Hope? Make it so, Frothy!

2 comments:

  1. Excuse me sir, but I disagree. He's far too energetic for my liking. Back in my day football coaches were abusive assholes and it made us better for it. He's not a real football coach and so Minnesota is not a real football team.

    ReplyDelete
  2. On top of what the recruits are looking for, what are their parents looking for? I daresay that a coach that cares about GPA, mental health, community outreach, and the importance of sleep would be someone I'd trust with my 18yo (cat).

    ReplyDelete