CHICAGO — If sometimes it appears that new Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck is putting on a show, don’t adjust your set. That’s reality.
Riding on his “Row the boat” philosophy that elevated Western Michigan last year and made him one of the most sought-after coaches in the country, he will be the subject of a reality TV series on ESPNU next month called “Being P.J. Fleck.” In addressing the media that covers the Big Ten for the first time on Tuesday, Fleck, 36, said such promotion is a part of his job.
“This wasn't something that we said: We’re going to have a reality show; let’s go find somebody to air it,” Fleck said. “They approached us, which was an honor. One thing I am hired to do is bring national exposure, national attention to the University of Minnesota. And that’s what we’re going to do.
“And the title, I don’t get to pick that. ‘Being P.J. Fleck,’ that’s not a title that I would necessarily pick. But I think it’s every head coach’s job and responsibility to bring attention to their institution.”
Though it’s his name in the title, as far as he is concerned, it’s all about the University of Minnesota.
“That’s not self-promoting, but I think every head football coach in America is self-promoting at some point,” said Fleck, who spent the 2006 season as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. “We’re all selling ourselves and showing what we’re like and recruiting our cultures and developing our cultures. You’re the front porch of the institution.”
No looking back
Godwin Igwebuike of Pickerington North was on Ohio State’s radar, but he didn’t become a major blip until after he had committed to Northwestern for its 2013 class. The fifth-year senior safety, now considered one of the elite players in the Big Ten, raved about going with coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats.
“It’s been incredible,” Igwebuike said. “It was definitely thus far the best decision I’ve made in all my life. I set up myself in a situation where not only did I earn a Northwestern degree, which is going to take me places I never could have (gone) over any other school, I’ve also made some great friends.
“Being under coach Fitz, who does a great job of providing us with resources while we’re here to learn and grow, and develop us as men, I think it has definitely paid dividends as well, and will continue to pay dividends in the future. And playing on the big stage, what’s better? I think I’ve gotten pretty much the best of all different worlds.”
Keeping it going
Penn State upset Ohio State last season and went on to win the Big Ten championship over Wisconsin before losing a shootout to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.
The Nittany Lions (11-3, 8-1) were one of the hotter teams in the nation at year’s end, and they’re expected to pick up where they left off. Running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley and tight end Mike Gesicki all return.
“I think the expectations are always pretty big at Penn State,” fourth-year coach James Franklin said. “Where it has probably changed is nationally.”
But he stressed this is a new year and “we’re not going to spend a lot of time at all talking about last year. … We have to build from the ground up.”