The Gophers finally met their kryptonite, much like other highly ranked teams who have visited Kinnick Stadium.
One of the biggest news coming out of college football on Saturday took place in the middle of the Big Ten West title race, where the eighth-ranked and undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers fell at Iowa City to the Iowa Hawkeyes 23-19. In a game that the Hawkeyes took advantage of their prolific run game and benefited from a lack of execution in the red zone by the Gopher offense, all the hopes and dreams of an undefeated regular season came crashing to an end for Coach Fleck and his team.
"You're cared about. You're loved." -Casey O'Brien pic.twitter.com/SvPQbjP9f7— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) November 16, 2019
One aspect of the retooling or reclassification of Minnesota Gopher Football (note that I didn’t call it a rebuild) has been what Head Coach P.J. Fleck has brought with him to the Big Ten. Fleck came over from Western Michigan in 2017, where he was coming off of an undefeated regular season in Kalamazoo with the Broncos, where the WMU campus hosted College GameDay and had America starting to learn about the “Row The Boat” mentality. At the time P.J. Fleck was having success, I was in the middle of my last semester on campus – before I was going to student teach the following semester. I loved every little thing that P.J. Fleck brought upon himself and the team he led. WMU may had been a small campus with not a lot of big name talent, overmatched by other conferences and programs that are more well known – but that didn’t stop the swagger and the confidence that Coach Fleck brought each and every week. I took a lot of what P.J. Fleck brought to his team and used in my classroom for Motivational Monday’s as a way to spark my students and even myself to accomplish the job we all had at hand.
When P.J. Fleck came to WMU, in his first season, he went 1-11. In two years, he turned that program around to the Cotton Bowl undefeated against the Wisconsin Badgers. What comes with P.J. Fleck is a ton of philosophical words of wisdom – which a lot of nonbelievers hate – phrases like F.A.M.I.L.Y (Forget About Me, I Love You), where he coaches and preaches the whole team aspect – relying on a classified unit rather than one individual to give you huge success. He encourages his players to where a dress shirt and tie to class – to sit in front of the classroom and to have positive relationships with their professors and teaching assistants. Consistently, his teams have had high academic marks ranked amongst the highest in college football. He has his players putting in hours of community service – working on having a positive impression on the community for which they serve.
The Minnesota Gopher Football program has been transformed from a program filled with scrutiny and scandal, to a program on the rise and continuing to get better. They are filling a stadium that struggled to fill up on Sundays. He dedicated the win over Penn State not to one individual player – but to the whole state of Minnesota – where he has total faith in the idea that he has people buying into what he is intending to build – especially for the only D1 football program in the entire state. The culture of his football program (Row The Boat) –is everyone and everybody rowing the boat together towards accomplishing a goal – it takes a team to row the boat – not just one – not just a select few. As more fans continue to jump on the ship and row, the boat will pick up speed.
There are times where I don’t care about wins or losses – but rather about building positive men who will continue to have positive impacts and set examples for us all to look up to in professional sports. P.J. Fleck is a man with a plan – he has players buying into his program and believing that they all can accomplish the improbable. There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about regarding Gopher Football in the state of Minnesota – in a state where the Minnesota Vikings overpower the football gridiron each and every fall. But there are now billboards on major highways all across the state that showcase the success that the Gophers have had – and fans across the North Star State can be and should be appreciative of the kind of coach who is hopefully there for the long term.
I believe, Coach Fleck. Let’s Keep Rowing the Boat.
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