27 July, 2023
Former Minnesota football players told Front Office Sports that coach P.J. Fleck’s program is a “cult” and that its atmosphere is “fraught with intimidation and toxicity.” According to a player reported by FOS, Fleck is accused of “minimizing the seriousness of some pretty horrendous injuries,” as well as interfering with medical protocols by pushing wounded players to return sooner than recommended.
The narrative also describes Fleck’s “Fleck Bank,” a scheme where athletes may accumulate goodwill to avoid the consequences of failed drug tests and other infractions.
In a statement to Front Office Sports, Minnesota’s athletic director Mark Coyle expressed his support for Fleck’s initiative.
P.J. and our program are special, according to Coyle. After nearly seven years, it is obvious to me that they put themselves out there in fresh and diverse ways, but always in a first-class manner, and that is what makes P.J. and our program so effective.
A former employee warned the Minnesota board of regents of a poisonous culture in a memo that CBS Sports was able to get in 2018. The individual said that the health and wellbeing of student-athletes at the University of Minnesota was in danger if “issues… continue to go unaddressed and things do not change.”
Toradol, a potent anti-inflammatory that lessens pain, was allegedly illegally prescribed by Minnesota medical employees, according to the former employee. The school’s athletic medical staff, according to the former employee, allegedly broke NCAA Independent Medical Care best practices.
The issues identified in the memorandum prompted Husch Blackwell, a well-known independent firm, to conduct a second inquiry. The review, which praised Minnesota’s sports training staff for excellent practices, mainly cleared individuals accused of illegal behavior.
In May 2021, WCCO, the Minneapolis CBS station, published a number of reports suggesting that under Fleck, Minnesota players had been mistreated.
After the program sacked former coach Tracy Claeys amid a public outcry for his dismissal, Fleck was hired in 2017. Following the 2016 season, ten Minnesota players were suspended due to a sexual assault investigation before to the bowl game. The team’s players responded by staging a boycott, although they later made a comeback for the Holiday Bowl match versus Washington State.
After four seasons as the head coach of Western Michigan, Fleck is starting his seventh season at Minnesota with a 44-27 (26-26 Big Ten record) record.
At 11:30 a.m. ET on Thursday at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis, Indiana, Fleck is slated to speak from the main platform. Additionally representing Minnesota at the competition are wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, defensive back Tyler Nubin, and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford.
Minnesota has recently added its name to a growing list of Big Ten teams that have recently been involved in controversy. The racial discrimination lawsuit against Iowa has been resolved; Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will miss the first four games of the 2023 season after being accused of lying to NCAA investigators; and Northwestern is still dealing with the fallout from the hazing scandal that rocked the school and resulted in the firing of longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald.