It’s been a tumultuous stretch for several Big Ten programs lately, and two more coaches who have made headlines for the wrong reasons met the media Thursday in the final day of the conference’s 51st annual football media days.
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck responded to a story that came out Wednesday. Among allegations from former players, Fleck was accused of a system with a “Fleck Bank” that players earned credit they could use to get out of breaking a team rule.
Fleck, who graduated from Kaneland High School in Maple Park, answered those questions directly Thursday.
“The Fleck Bank, mostly used in 2017 and ’18, was an analogy used in a team meeting talking about the more you invest into a program, the better experience you’re going to get out of it,” Fleck said. “As a head football coach when you come in and you don’t know anybody, the guys that do really good things are going to have a really good experience. If you’re not doing all the right things, you’re probably not going to have a great experience. There was no currency ever exchanged. There was no coins that ever existed. It was an analogy simply to explain investment for life, a life lesson of investment. Simply that. No one ever got out of any type of punishment for that.”
Other allegations detailed Fleck downplaying injuries and interfering with medical staff to get players back on the field sooner, and that the Gophers program under Fleck is “fraught with intimidation and toxicity.”
“These allegations are baseless,” Fleck said. “We have full support of our athletic director, Mark Coyle, and our university leadership. This is a similar story that gets peddled every single year, and the majority of the players have been dismissed or removed from our football team. We also have around a half-dozen anonymous reporting avenues within our football program that players can go to if they have an issue. Our program and culture is proven to work on and off the field, and it’s always done in a first-class manner. We’re one of the most transparent programs in the country. There are tons of testimonials from past, present, and even future Gophers to support and prove that.
“My energy needs to be on the 2023 football team, and that only, and not the baseless allegations.”
Reigning Big Ten coach of the year Jim Harbaugh of Michigan is reportedly facing a four-game suspension to start the season for allegedly lying to NCAA investigators about recruiting violations. He also took his turn at the podium but could not comment about where the decision on a suspension stands.
“I’m not allowed to talk about any aspect of that ongoing situation,” Harbaugh said. “I would love to lay it all out there. Nothing to be ashamed of. But now is not the time. That’s about all there is to say about that.”
One of the best Big Ten players from the Daily Herald coverage area is Minnesota’s fifth-year safety, Tyler Nubin.
Nubin, a St. Charles North graduate, was one of 10 Big Ten players named by the media on a preseason watch list.
“Tyler Nubin is one of the best safeties in the country in my opinion,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “Tyler had to sit behind the Antoine Winfield Jrs. and Jordan Howdens. And he emerged as one of the best college football players in the country. We originally recruited him as a corner/wideout and ended up as safety. His dad, Rodney, and mom, Sherese, were both student-athletes, and he gets a lot of that competitive nature and confidence from his parents.
“He’s really become the vocal presence on our defensive side of the ball. And he can back up all the charisma and confidence that he has.”
New coaches take their turn:
Three of the four new Big Ten coaches this season — Purdue’s Ryan Walters, Matt Rhule at Nebraska and Wisconsin’s Luke Fickell — spoke Thursday.
Walters coached the No. 1 scoring defense in the country last year at Illinois. Rhule is trying to duplicate the success he had at Temple and Baylor with the Cornhuskers while Fickell returns to the Big Ten after a successful run at Cincinnati.