P.J. Fleck has taken one of the biggest salary cuts in the nation this year.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach had his total compensation reduced $548,320 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which was the fourth-highest dollar amount among 130 college football coaches, according to USA Today’s database of coaching salaries released Wednesday, Oct. 14.
In May, Gophers athletics director Mark Coyle, Fleck and four other top Minnesota coaches took 10 percent pay cuts in the current fiscal year 2021 to help offset budget losses estimated between $45 million and $65 million because of fall sports cancelations and postponements.
When Fleck first took one week unpaid in April, he said: “We were glad to. (Wife) Heather and I immediately jumped on it. Anything we can do to continue to help.”
The 10 percent cut for Fleck accounts for $460,000 and the unpaid week was $88,320, per USA Today. His overall cut is only behind Clemson’s Dabo Swinney at $1.25 million, Florida State’s Mike Norvell at $868,750, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh $554,548. Texas’s Tom Herman was fifth at $516,250.
Fleck’s 2020 compensation of $4.28 million ranks 20th, according to USA Today’s incomplete list. The newspaper didn’t obtain every pandemic pay reduction, including three for Big Ten schools Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern.
USA Today’s “actual school pay” list has Fleck at sixth in the Big Ten: Harbaugh leads the pack at $7.78 million annually, followed by Ohio State’s Ryan Day ($5.64M), Michigan State’s Mel Tucker ($4.95M), Nebraska’s Scott Frost ($4.83M), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4.67M), Fleck ($4.28M) and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst ($3.93M).
Penn State’s James Franklin, Wildcats’ Pat Fitzgerald and Boilermakers Jeff Brohm were scheduled to make more money overall than Fleck in 2020 but were not included in this revised list. When Fleck’s team was 8-0 last November, he signed a seven-year, $33 million contract extension through the 2026 season. In his third season in 2019, Fleck’s salary was $3.6 million.
“We’ve made a commitment to being here; that’s for sure,” Fleck said when his new deal was announced days before Minnesota upset No. 4 Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 9.
If the current 24th-ranked Gophers have a strong 2020 season — which begins Oct. 24 against No. 19 Michigan — wondering whether Fleck stays in Minnesota could become an annual rite. If he leaves on his own, Fleck will owe the University $10 million in 2020. That falls to $4.5 million next year in 2021.
“I think it’s definitely unattractive in general in terms of being able to pick up and leave,” Fleck said last November.