Row the Boat to the bank: Minnesota coach PJ Fleck gets contract extended through 2026

Posted at 7:44 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 19:44:34-05

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Undefeated and 13th-ranked Minnesota has agreed with coach P.J. Fleck on a contract extension through the 2026 season, including an annual raise of more than 25% from his current salary and an eight-figure buyout for the first year to cover the university if he were to leave.

Fleck signed his new deal on Tuesday afternoon, delaying his regular weekly news conference by a half-hour. The contract, which is pending final approval by the Board of Regents, will pay Fleck $4.6 million in 2020 with a $50,000 raise scheduled for each season thereafter.

His prior deal from 2017, when he was hired away from Western Michigan, had him making $3.6 million this year. The original contract also called for a $1 million payment to Minnesota per remaining season on the deal if Fleck were to skip out, but now it would cost him $10 million to do so anytime before Dec. 31, 2020. Fleck did his best to put to rest any concern about him using the Gophers as a steppingstone to a more prominent program.

"We love the Twin Cities area. We love Minnesota. We're Midwestern people. We've absolutely loved how the community has welcomed us with open arms," said Fleck, who turns 39 on Nov. 29.

The buyout for a departure by Fleck drops to $4.5 million in 2021, $3.5 million in 2022, $3 million in 2023, and $2 million in 2024 or 2025. If he were to be fired for performance, without cause, the university would owe him 65% of the remaining base salaries and supplemental compensation. That's a big bump from the $2.5 million figure the initial deal called for if he were to be dismissed in 2019.

The Gophers (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) host sixth-ranked Penn State on Saturday, the first time they've been a part of a game with two top-15 teams in the Associated Press poll since 2004, when Michigan visited Minnesota.

Fleck is 20-13 at Minnesota, including a 10-game winning streak that started on Nov. 24, 2018, with a victory at Wisconsin that was the first for the Gophers over the rival Badgers since 2003. The Gophers are tied with Baylor for the third-longest active winning streak in the FBS, behind defending national champion Clemson (24) and defending Big Ten champion Ohio State (14).

With a winning percentage of .606, Fleck is third in Gophers history among head coaches with 30 or more games and the best since Bernie Bierman, who last coached at Minnesota in 1950 and led the Gophers to five national championships.