STATE OF THE PROGRAM: Where is Gophers football right now?

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Deservedly so, many people are questioning whether P.J. Fleck is the answer for the Gophers football program, after dropping three straight games. So, rather than telling you my opinion on what Mark Coyle and Minnesota’s athletic department “should” do, I thought it would be a great time to analyze where the program currently is. Philip John Fleck Jr. has been the head coach for nearly seven full seasons at this point, which is more than enough time to form an opinion on how he runs a program and what a Fleck-led program will look like.

Rivalry Games

I believe that the biggest feather in PJ Fleck’s cap is his success vs. Wisconsin and Iowa. It obviously took a while for the Hawkeyes side of that argument to get going, but beating your rivals is very important in the sport of college football, especially at a program like Minnesota. Their current stretch against Wisconsin is the program’s best in 30+ years and Fleck deserves immense credit for that. He has pretty easily outperformed the past three regimes, which certainly means a lot for the current state of the program.

Last 4 multi-year Gophers HCs

  • P.J. Fleck (Total Record: 4-9/36.3%)
    • Iowa: 1-6
    • Wisconsin: 3-3
  • Glen Mason (Total Record: 6-14/30%)
    • Iowa: 4-6
    • Wisconsin: 2-8
  • Jerry Kill (Total Record: 2-6/25%)
    • Iowa: 2-2
    • Wisconsin: 0-4
  • Tim Brewster (Total Record: 0-7/0%)
    • Iowa: 0-3
    • Wisconsin: 0-4

Bowl Games

From 2000-2016, the Gophers played in 13 bowl games, missing the postseason only four times, which comes out to playing in the postseason 76.47% of the time. Since Fleck arrived in 2017, they have played in four bowl games, which is a 66.6% mark. With a loss this Saturday vs. Wisconsin that number would drop to 57.14%. Bowl games are obviously not a linear distinction of success, but for a program like Minnesota in the modern college football world, I think it’s a very appropriate expectation. For a “developmental program” like Fleck considers his Gophers, playing in a bowl game gives your team another month or more of full practice, so no matter where or who you’re playing it can be imperative to continue momentum (something Fleck does not believe in) as a program.

Last 4 multi-year Gophers HCs

  • Jerry Kill (5 seasons/4 bowl games): 80%
  • Glen Mason (10 seasons/7 bowl games): 70%
  • PJ Fleck (6 seasons/4 bowl games): 66.6%
  • Tim Brewster (4 seasons/2 bowl games): 50%

Much of the P.J. Fleck truthers will start with the fact that he’s played in four straight bowl games in the last four “full seasons,” more reason why I think missing one this week would be such a tough pill to swallow. I myself am a little tired of hearing excuses, such as the COVID season not counting, if it counts for most other programs across the country I personally think it should count for Fleck as well. More reason why Saturday vs. Wisconsin could be one of the most important games during his tenure.


Modern recruiting metrics have obviously evolved immensely across the span of the Gophers’ past four coaching regimes, but 247sports’ numbers go back to 2000, so that is where will look at the Gophers’ success on the trail.

Last 4 multi-year Gophers HCs

  • Tim Brewster (4 offseasons): Average Rank: 38.5
    • 2007: 48th
    • 2008: 25th
    • 2009: 32nd
    • 2010: 49th
  • PJ Fleck (7 offseasons): 47.1
    • 2017: 60th
    • 2018: 38th
    • 2019: 49th
    • 2020: 39th
    • 2021: 39th
    • 2022: 52nd
    • 2023: 53rd
  • Glen Mason (2000-2006): Average Rank: 53.6
    • 2000: 41st
    • 2001: 49th
    • 2002: 71st
    • 2003: n/a
    • 2004: 52nd
    • 2005: 52nd
    • 2006: 57th
  • Jerry Kill (5 offseasons): Average Rank: 59.8
    • 2011: 55th
    • 2012: 59th
    • 2013: 66th
    • 2014: 57th
    • 2015: 62nd

Fleck has been a defintie upgrade in recruiting rankings and performance against Wisconsin/Iowa compared to the previous regime. It seems as if Fleck’s recruiting has gotten progressively worse, only showing how important the next 12 months for this program will be as his current 2024 class ranks 30th best in the country, which would be the best Gophers’ class since 2008.


While I do believe that success in college football should not always be measured by wins and losses, at the end of the day it’s a football game and everything you’re doing as a program is hoping to win as many games as possible. Plain winning percentage, might be the biggest feather in PJ Fleck’s cap. He has led Gophers football to its most successful stretch in maybe 70 years, something that he obviously deserves immense credit for.

Last 4 multi-year Gophers HCs

  • PJ Fleck (49-32/59.7%)
  • Glen Mason (64-57/52.9%)
  • Jerry Kill (29-29/50%)
  • Tim Brewster (15-30/31.1%)


Unfortunately, Minnesota is the level of program that will have down seasons, no matter who the head coach is. The frustration from this season obviously starts with the fact that it did not have to be as down as they’ve made it, but P.J. Fleck is still one of the most susscesful coaches in program history. In my opinion, a loss to Wisconsin would truly warm up his seat. This was always meant to be a rebuilding year, so a 5-7 season would just put that much more pressure on 2024. If I was the Athletic Director I would see the 2024 season as a do or die year for Fleck and he would have to show you some evidence that 2023 was nothing more than a blip in the radar. I beleive that he still gives the Minnesota Gophers their best oppurtinity to consistently compete in the short term and for that reason, the program is in a positive spot, but it would be naive to say that he doesn’t deserve at least a little criticism, because there is no doubt that this season has been a step in the wrong direction.

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