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Minnesota head football coach P.J. Fleck defends program, calls mistreatment claims ‘baseless’

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Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach P.J. Fleck responded to recent claims of mistreatment from former players and others, calling them “baseless allegations.”

Fleck said, via ESPN, that a report from Front Office Sports had “been looked into multiple times since 2017,” and there was nothing to confirm any wrongdoing. 

The report includes claims from former players of Fleck saying the coach overlooked positive drug tests and other rules for players who accumulated “enough goodwill through a points system called the Fleck Bank.”

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PJ Fleck speaks to media

Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Minnesota Golden Gophers speaks at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium July 27, 2023, in Indianapolis. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The Fleck Bank would track community service by the players, which included visiting to the University of Minnesota Medical Center alongside the head coach and tracking study habits. 

Fleck allegedly also had punishments that included excessive workouts, and the term “cult” was brought up by the former players when characterizing Fleck’s program. 

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Fleck’s “Row The Boat” culture, which is a philosophy he discussed in a 2021 book with the same name, is what the former players compared to a “cult.”

“Our program culture is proven to work on and off the field, and it’s always done in a first-class manner,” Fleck said, via ESPN. “There are tons of testimonials from past, current and future Gophers.”

PJ Fleck watches team warm up

Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Minnesota Golden Gophers watches the team warm up before a game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium Nov. 5, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. (Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

Fleck noted that Minnesota has six different channels through which players can report mistreatment, which includes Mark Coyle, the school’s athletic director. Coyle told Front Office Sports no claims ever came across his desk regarding the football program. 

As for the Fleck Bank, the six-year Minnesota head coach said it was an analogy he used during his first two seasons with the program in 2017 and 2018. It was to show player investment in the team on and off the field. 

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“There was no currency ever exchanged,” Fleck explained. “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.

“You are who you are, and you’re running a very, very open, transparent program. Our university knows that, our athletic department, our athletic director know that, and they experience it every single day.”

PJ Fleck on sidelines

Head coach P. J. Fleck of the Minnesota Golden Gophers gets ready to take the field against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium Nov. 26, 2022, in Madison, Wis. (John Fisher/Getty Images)

Fleck believes the claims against Minnesota come from a former staffer who “clearly has a personal vendetta against myself and our football program.”

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With the Northwestern University hazing scandal front and center in college football, claims like these are not being taken lightly be schools across the country.  

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