Coach Fleck leaving WMU for Minnesota in five-year deal

Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan, head coach P.J. Fleck
Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck gestures on from the sideline in the first quarter of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, in Arlington, Texas.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An official at Western Michigan University confirmed head football coach P.J. Fleck is leaving the university.

The Western Michigan Division of Intercollegiate Athletics was informed Fleck intends to accept the head football coach position at the University of Minnesota, according to a release from WMU.

Fleck, 36, and Minnesota agreed to a five-year deal, according to a Friday post on Minnesota’s website that also features him wearing Minnesota’s colors.

“It’s an honor to coach at Minnesota and be part of the Big Ten conference,” said Fleck, who thanked WMU, its players and fans and the city of Kalamazoo “for a wonderful four years.”

“I look forward to meeting my new players and getting to know them as quickly as possible. I am excited to put together a staff and turn my efforts to recruiting, but also want Gopher fans to know that my wife, Heather, and I and our four children will be visible in the community and we are eager to connect with them. I am ready to go. Ski-U-Mah!”

In a Friday afternoon news conference, WMU Director of Athletics Kathy Beauregard said the university offered Fleck “an incredible deal” before he went to Minnesota. WMU says they plan to start a national search immediately.

>>WATCH: WMU responds to Fleck’s departure

Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck hugs quarterback Zach Terrell (11) after beating Northwestern 22-21 in an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck hugs quarterback Zach Terrell (11) after beating Northwestern 22-21 in an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

The Gophers will hold a news conference for Fleck at 3:45 p.m. Friday, according to the Big Ten Network.

WMU senior quarterback Zach Terrell was one of the first players to react to Fleck’s departure on Twitter.

“Coach Fleck changed my life forever. Changed this university and community forever. We should be thankful & grateful forever. #RTBForever,” tweeted Terrell Friday morning.

The sports director at KARE-TV, the NBC-affiliate in Minneapolis, tweeted that WMU football players were told Thursday night of Fleck’s departure and are “obviously distraught.”

WMU fell to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl after a perfect season in the Mid-American Conference.