P.J. Fleck’s contract with the University of Minnesota puts an emphasis on developing players’ “character,” pays him more money for major victories and protects the university in case the high-energy football coach takes a job elsewhere.
The school released the contract Thursday, a day before it was expected to be approved by the Board of Regents.
The first page of Fleck’s contract features some new language for Gophers deals: The first official duty of a coach in regard to his players now reads Fleck must make an “effort to develop their character.”
Athletic director Mark Coyle made “character” and “culture” buzzwords of his decision to fire Tracy Claeys in early January after a month of fallout from an alleged sexual assault, suspensions and a player boycott of team activities.
Fleck arrived in Minnesota on Jan. 6 promising improvement in the program’s culture, and he signed on the line on Monday of this week to uphold that.
Upon accepting the job, Fleck signed a university “Memorandum of Understanding” that spelled out the main terms of his five-year deal.
The contract will pay Fleck an average of $3.6 million per season — $18 million over the five years — slightly more than the Big Ten average of $3.52 million, according to Forbes.
The Gophers made a big jump in financial commitment from Claeys’ three-year, $4.5 million deal signed in November 2015.
Some other key differences between Fleck’s deal and Claeys’ contract:
• Fleck would receive bigger bonuses for winning a Big Ten championship, playing in top tier bowl games and making the College Football Playoffs, all goals Fleck already has embraced. For instance, if Fleck’s Gophers win the Big Ten West ($100,000 bonus), the Big Ten championship ($150,000) and made the playoffs ($200,000), he’d receive an extra $450,000. A national title would mean an extra $100,000 on top of the $200,000 playoff bonus.
• The university built in some protection, in case Fleck’s star continues to rise and he leaves town. The contract states Fleck must give Coyle 48-hour notice if he wants to negotiate details of a new job with another school or team. If he does leave, Fleck would owe the U about $1 million per remaining year on his contract.
Some other contract highlights include:
• In the event the U wants to fire Fleck without cause, a buyout would be paid. Some examples: a $1.5 million buyout payment if he’s fired with one year remaining; a $9 million buyout if he’s fired after just one Gophers season. Claeys had a relatively small buyout of $500,000.
• Other perks, such as Gophers tickets to sporting events, a university car and private airline travel, were largely unchanged.
• A new clause was added to the list of reasons the university can fire a football coach with cause: “Coach’s refusal to obey and/or carry out any reasonable assignment or directive from the [athletic] director …”
Coyle and university President Eric Kaler will appear before the Board of Regents on Friday and give a presentation entitled “Intercollegiate Athletics: Developing the Whole Person.” Approval of Fleck’s deal, complete with the new language around character development, is expected to take place on the same day.