Western Michigan

Daily Cavalcade: Now What For P.J. Fleck?

Now What For Western Michigan Head Coach P.J. Fleck?


Is P.J. Fleck really staying at Western Michigan? Thoughts on this in the Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy.


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– Cavalcade of Whimsy: Lessons we learned from the final CFP rankings

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …

Let the Lane Kiffins and Charlie Strongs grovel for the American Athletic Conference jobs.

”You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Just how much does P.J. Fleck believe in himself?

While the world was fawning all over Tom Herman, Willie Taggart and Matt Rhule, the coaching carousel seemed to stop and pick up the American Athletic guys, but ignored the MAC.

Toledo’s Jason Candle appears to be a Next Big Thing on the horizon, and Miami University’s Chuck Martin has done wonders with the moribund program, but, obviously, it’s Fleck’s boat, and everyone’s trying to row in it.

Indiana would’ve been the near-perfect next-step-up gig for Fleck, but the Hoosiers stayed in-house after firing Kevin Wilson, and Purdue went with a hotter Jeff Brohm from Western Kentucky.

And now, with Houston tapping The Major for its gig, and South Florida sitting back and grooving on being the only decent opening left, Fleck’s options have stalled.

He wasn’t ever going to be in the mix for Oregon, and he certainly wasn’t going to be on the Texas radar. Worse yet, this has been a strange year for Power Five coaching vacancies.

There aren’t any in the ACC, the two in the Big Ten were quickly figured out, and the SEC – which wouldn’t have gone Fleck even if there was an opening – doesn’t have any spaces with Ed Orgeron staying around at LSU.

So what are Fleck’s options after turning a 1-11 2013 into 29-10 over the last three seasons, and 13-0 and a Cotton Bowl berth this year?

He apparently doesn’t want to go to Cincinnati or Temple. And why? Taking a Group of Five job would set back the Herman-like timetable he could be on with one more big year. And as Herman showed this season, underwhelming doesn’t matter if you’re seen as THE guy.

There’s no upside in the Bearcats or Owls for Fleck. If he goes to Temple and doesn’t win an American Athletic Conference championship, the bloom will be off the rose. If he goes to Cincinnati, that might be a repair job that’ll take a few years to make right.

teamworkMeanwhile, he might be able to Row The Boat again next year at Western Michigan, take his chances that his team will be just good enough to be in the hunt for the MAC title, and if he has another decent year, all of a sudden, he’ll be rip-roaring hot.

Especially if his Broncos play well in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin, much less win it.

He’s going to lose QB Zach Terrell and WR Corey Davis, but three starters are back on the line, the running back tandem of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan should be excellent, and Tom Flacco has seen enough time here and there to be okay under center.

And then there’s the defense – it’s going to be fantastic.

The line loses two starters, but everyone else is back.

So everything is going to be great and the Broncos won’t miss a beat, right? In MAC play, maybe, but they’ve got to open the season at USC, followed up by a trip up the road to Michigan State. Somehow get a split, and then with Idaho and Wagner up next before diving into conference play, and Fleck’s status will only rise.

He’ll accomplish just as much at Western Michigan – with a decent raise and an extension – than he would at any other Group of Five program.

But what might be open next year?

There will always be a few major surprises, but if Fleck is dreaming big, Tennessee, Texas A&M and/or Arkansas might be in play – the SEC is overdue for a little bit of an overhaul – Kansas, Kansas State and/or Texas Tech could be in limbo, and North Carolina, UCLA, Arizona and/or Stanford could potentially be alive, depending on the various situations. But let me plant this seed.

Notre Dame.

Fleck might not have gotten Indiana or Purdue, but South Bend would obviously be a far bigger prize for a head coach who grew up in Illinois and certainly has proven to be a Midwest sort of head coach with the right energy and fire the program might need if and when the Brian Kelly experience is over.

But for now, Kalamazoo will likely have its celebrity head coach still around.

And let the 2018 college football coaching carousel begin.

– Cavalcade of Whimsy: Lessons we learned from the final CFP rankings