Gopher players hope new coach Fleck can bring change they seek
MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears the Gophers football team is ready to "Row The Boat" merrily down the stream -- with new coach P.J. Fleck leading the way. A few hours after the announcement of Fleck's hiring, the new coach was hard at working trying to...
MINNEAPOLIS - It appears the Gophers football team is ready to "Row The Boat" merrily down the stream - with new coach P.J. Fleck leading the way.
A few hours after the announcement of Fleck's hiring, the new coach was hard at working trying to quell some of his players' concerns.
Fleck met with about 25 members of the team in person Friday morning with the rest of the team tuning in via Facebook Live. He called the meeting "unique," and his message to his players was clear.
"The first thing I told them was very simple," Fleck said. "I said, 'Guys. You did not pick me. You did not pick me. But I picked you.'"
That message seemed to resonate, according to Duke Anyanwu, a former team leader who graduated recently and played his final season in the fall.
"I can't really speak for everybody," Anyanwu told the Pioneer Press. "From what I know, so far guys are really open to give him a chance with an open heart and an open mind. I know the guys are really excited about coach Fleck. He has a lot of energy. He has a lot of juice. He has a vision for program."
That vision was laid out in Fleck's introductory news conference which, at times, felt more like a presidential campaign speech. Nonetheless, he seems to have won over his team, at least for now.
Linebacker Carter Coughlin, one of the most vocal players on the team about the firing of Tracy Claeys, told the Pioneer Press he was "very excited" to play for Fleck and that he "absolutely does" seem like someone he wants to play for.
Coughlin also tweeted: "We can't change what has happened because it's in the past. We can only focus on the future. I'm excited to be led by Coach Fleck! Ski-U-Mah."
Players also met briefly with athletics director Mark Coyle on Friday.
"I understand their frustration and anger," Coyle said. "I had a chance to talk with them for just a few minutes when I introduced coach Fleck to them today, and I do look forward to spending more time with them, and having more conversations. ...
"I think this can be a tremendous learning experience for all of us. That's the great thing about a university campus; we can have different opinions, different thoughts, as long as we're respectful, we can learn from it, and that's what I'm hoping is going to happen. I've been very thankful for the way our players responded."
Anyanwu said the team is focused on turning the page.
"You know, what's happened, has happened," he said. "These guys are excited about coach Fleck."
And he is excited about the Gophers.
"I could feel the energy," Fleck said of his meeting with players. "I could feel they've embraced the change. I know there's going to be a lot of challenge ahead. I know there's going to be people that fit with the change, that don't fit with the change, that like the change, that don't like the change. ...
"Everybody wants change until they get change. Well, I've got news for everybody: Change has arrived."