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Staying put: Gophers coach P.J. Fleck gets another seven-year contract extension

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Colorado
Sep 18, 2021; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P. J. Fleck (top, left) and defensive back Jordan Howden (23) leap in celebration after a turnover in the third quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Could P.J. Fleck have been in the running for a head coaching job at another school after the season? Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle wanted to make sure we would never find out.

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday that Fleck has agreed to a seven-year contract will keep the football coach on the Gophers sideline through the 2028 season. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Fleck signed a seven-year, $33.25 million extension during the 2019 season. The Gophers went 11-2 that year, won the Outback Bowl over Auburn and finished 10th in the Associated Press Top 25.

The Gophers are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten this season entering Saturday’s game against Illinois. That puts Minnesota in first place in the Big Ten West with games remaining against Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin after they face the Illini. The Gophers debuted at No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday.

“This is home,” said Fleck, who is 32-21 overall at Minnesota and 24-10 in the past 34 games. “Our family loves it here and we are excited to continue this journey at the University of Minnesota. From day one, we talked about cultural sustainability and how important it is to building a successful football program and life program. Today is another step in that process, and this new contract is a commitment to our elite staff and the entire state of Minnesota.”

The Gophers’ losses this season have come against Ohio State and Bowling Green at home. The shocking loss to Bowling Green, which is tied for last place in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference, left the Gophers at 2-2. Minnesota was favored by 30.5 points in that game, making the 14-10 loss statistically the biggest in two seasons in college football.

The Gophers bounced back to win four consecutive Big Ten games, including a 41-14 victory at Northwestern last Saturday.

“P.J. and Heather continue to do everything the right way,” Coyle said. “He continues to build a program that fans can take great pride in, and his student-athletes compete at a high level academically, athletically and socially. He is a tremendous recruiter and has elevated the stature of our program by an immeasurable amount. I am grateful to President Gabel and the Board of Regents for their continued support, and I look forward to Coach Fleck continuing to lead the Gophers.”

There was speculation that Fleck could draw interest from Southern Cal, which is looking for a coach, but many expect that job will end up going to Penn State coach James Franklin.

Fleck, who is in his fifth season with the Gophers, is 10th in school history in games coached (53) and sixth in victories (32). Terms of his new contract were not immediately available.