Football

WMU's Fleck addresses speculation

35-year-old one of hottest names in college football coaching carousel

Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck watches from the sideline in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Akron on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Akron, Ohio. Western Michigan won 41-0.

Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck watches from the sideline in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Akron on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Akron, Ohio. Western Michigan won 41-0.

KALAMAZOO – With his team 7-0 and ranked No. 20 in the nation, Western Michigan football head coach P.J. Fleck has emerged as one of the hottest names in college football.

And after Purdue fired Paul Hazell on Sunday, Fleck was mentioned by many media outlets as a potential replacement – and it likely won’t be the last Power Five Conference program to take a hard look at the man who brought his ‘Row the Boat’ mantra to Kalamazoo.

At Tuesday’s media luncheon, Fleck addressed speculation about his candidacy for other coaching jobs.

“I’ve been part of rumors and speculation my entire life, and that will never change,” he said. “It’s elite exposure for Western Michigan. My focus is on today, and that’s the way I’ve lived my life… I can’t control rumors or speculation, and I’ll never comment on rumors or speculation. Just like I didn’t in year one, or last year or the year before. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in coaching this football team and being the best head coach I can be today – that’s all I’m focused on.”

At 7-0, the Broncos are off to their best start since 1941 and enter Saturday’s home matchup against Eastern Michigan with a 3-0 mark in Mid-American Conference play.

Fleck began his head coaching career with WMU in 2013, when the team finished 1-11 overall. He then led the team to back-to-back eight-win seasons and its first bowl victory in program history in 2015. This season, the Broncos have wins over Big Ten Conference schools Northwestern and Illinois.

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In 2014, Fleck signed a six-year contract extension that made him the highest-paid coach in the MAC at $800,000 annually. He has brought in the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the MAC for three consecutive seasons, and at 35, is the second-youngest head coach in FBS.

WMU fifth-year senior quarterback Zach Terrell said the buzz surrounding his head coach has not been a distraction for the team.

“That outside noise about coach Fleck maybe leaving or all the people putting pressure on us – we are such a tight-knit group and we only focus on us,” he said. “He comes in and brings it every day, and that’s all we can ask from him. What everybody else says about him with other jobs, he deserves those jobs, 100 percent.  He’s one of the best coaches in college football. And look what he’s done for us. He deserves to be mentioned in those categories… What everybody else says, it doesn’t matter. To us, he’s our football coach and he’s here and he present and he’s making us work hard and making us change our best and he’s doing the same. The rest is just outside noise that we can’t control.”

Nick Buckley can be reached at nbuckley@battlecreekenquirer.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley

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