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Editorial: Is it time for a new football coach?

The Gophers’ season was 5-7.
Image by Sarah Mai

It’s getting tiresome for University of Minnesota Gopher football fans to hear head coach P. J. Fleck’s typical comments after each disappointing, sometimes devastating and well-deserved defeats like Saturday’s regular, season-ending 28-14 loss here to border rival Wisconsin for the venerated Paul Bunyan’s Axe.  Despite the defeat, resulting in an under-achieving 5-7 win-loss record, the team managed to achieve an undeserved placement in a post-season bowl game to be designated, probably one matching uninspiring teams lacking winning records.

This year’s team was characterized with a porous defense, subpar quarterback play, an unimaginative offense and a consistent inability to maintain leads against mediocre opponents. 

As a result, Fleck’s squad did not beat a team with a winning record. Its quintet of wins came against middling competition or bottom feeders.  

After nearly each loss, Flecked mouthed the same mantra that his team was “out-coached” and then went  on to attribute the dismal performance to other factors like inexperienced players, lack of depth, and injuries, among other excuses. However, he rarely mentioned another topic: the other team was better.  

These lamentations are quite lame.

Other teams that Fleck’s squad competes against have as many, or more, youthful freshman and sophomore players; in fact, the Gophers have had, due to COVID and other factors have had a number of players who have been around for five or six years, longer than the customary four-year span of eligibility. The lack of depth is due to inability to evaluate, attract, recruit and maintain enough quality players in the program and need to raise large sums of NIL money to purchase better players (the going rate for an adequate quarterback is $250,000), challenges nearly all other schools face. As for injuries, every team has them, many more severe than the Gophers’. 

That the Gophers were badly outplayed and out-scored in the second halves of all seven of their losses reflects lack of depth (yes, Fleck’s right about that). But, more importantly, it shows a failure to make mid-game adjustments compared to the competition, a deficiency that Fleck and his coaching staff own. 

But if the Gophers are consistently being “out-coached,” it might be appropriate for Athletic Director Mark Coyle to go shopping this Holiday season for a new one, notwithstanding the multi-million buy-out the University would have to pay Fleck. It’s done so for the previous series of dismissed coaches going back nearly five decades, except for Lou Holtz, who voluntarily left after a couple of years in the mid-1980’s in the midst of his contract to go to Notre Dame. 

If Coyle is going to replace Fleck, he had better act fast because the best available ones are being grabbed off the shelves swiftly — and they will require a huge buy-out clause in their contract.

Marshall H. Tanick is a University alumnus and Constitutional and employment law attorney with the law firm of MEYER NJUS TANICK.

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  • john
    Nov 30, 2023 at 12:07 pm

    Coyle only brings in mediocre coaches, fits the budget. Can’t get a top coach due to money. Take a deep look at all the revenue producing teams and you see failure. Need to replace Coyle first