P.J. Fleck Named Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week
Fleck receives award after statement win versus No. 4 Penn State
ATLANTA (Nov. 12, 2019) – Officials from the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl today announced that Minnesota head football coach P.J. Fleck has been selected as The Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week.
The Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week award honors a football coach who led his team to a significant victory during the previous week, while also embodying the award’s three pillars of scholarship, leadership and integrity.
Considering The Dodd Trophy represents more than just a coach’s performance on the field, a coach in his first year, who has not had a full season to establish his own impact on Academic Progress Rate (APR) and the local community, is not eligible to win.
Undefeated No. 17 Minnesota hosted No. 4 Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium in what many considered to be the biggest game in the modern era of Minnesota’s program. Behind stellar quarterback play from Tanner Morgan and three forced turnovers by the defense, the Golden Gophers remained undefeated with a 31-26 win.
The win marked Minnesota’s first home victory over a top-five opponent since 1977. Minnesota moves to 9-0 on the season, good for first place in the Big Ten West division. This is the first time that Minnesota has won its first nine games since 1904. The Golden Gophers have now won 11-straight games dating back to last season, including seven-straight conference wins. Minnesota also set a program record by scoring 30 or more points in its seventh-straight conference matchup. In fact, the Gophers’ 24 points in the first half were more than Penn State had allowed in an entire game this season.
“Minnesota proved to the nation that the Golden Gophers are legitimate contenders in the Big Ten and that they belong in the conversation for the College Football Playoff,” said Jim Terry, chairman of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation. “This was a program-defining win. The way coach Fleck has invested in his players and his program’s culture reminds us of coach Dodd.”
Fleck is in his third season at the helm for Minnesota. He was hired after the 2016 season and was recently rewarded with an extension that will see his contract run through 2026. He took over a Minnesota team that was young and inexperienced (76 of 110 players were underclassmen), but his unique energy and leadership built the team into a formidable force in one of the nation’s premier conferences.
Fleck took over after four seasons with Western Michigan, where he tallied a 30-22 record overall. He gained recognition for one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football after the Broncos went 1-11 in his first season but ended the 2016 season ranked No. 12 with a 13-1 record, a conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Minnesota was hoping for more of the same when it tapped Fleck to be the 30th head coach in the program’s history. In Fleck’s first season, one of the nation’s youngest teams went 5-7, the most wins for a first-year head coach in program history. The Golden Gophers have improved in every season since, culminating in this year’s undefeated start that garnered the No. 7 ranking in the latest AP poll.
Fleck famously coaches and leads with a number of mantras and philosophies. His “Row the Boat” mantra has followed him from Western Michigan to Minnesota, and it keeps players focused on the goal ahead. He also instills a culture that is built around a holistic approach to success, addressing the athletic, academic, social and spiritual needs of every player.
The success on the field is now well-known and apparent, but the dedication to the academic success of his players is just as valuable to coach Fleck. His teams have set program records for team GPA in his three years, and the program’s Academic Progress Rate sits at an impressive 978 mark.
Giving back to the community has also been a focus for coach Fleck. When he’s not coaching, he and the team can often be found at University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital where they have hosted or helped with turkey drives, diaper drives and canned food drives this past year.
“Coach Fleck and Minnesota are one of the best story lines of the season to date,” said Gary Stokan, CEO and president of Peach Bowl, Inc. “His players have clearly bought into his coaching philosophy after a 9-0 start to the season. We look forward to continuing to see the Gophers row the boat with a possible appearance in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.”
The Dodd Trophy presented by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – along with the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week Award – celebrates the head coach of a FBS team who enjoys success on the gridiron, while also stressing the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity.
A panel consisting of all previous winners, national media, a member of the Dodd family and a College Football Hall of Fame member will identify the final list of potential recipients at the conclusion of the 2019 season. The winner of the 2019 Dodd Trophy will be announced in Atlanta during bowl week for this year’s College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.