KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University’s athletic director says she never regrets hiring P.J. Fleck, despite his departure from the Broncos.
“I know coach Fleck will speak for himself, but honestly felt this was his next step, his opportunity. I know it was not easy for him, I know it’s not easy for us. Change, as he would be the one to say, is difficult. We know that,” said WMU AD Kathy Beauregard, who commended Fleck on a historic season.
Beauregard said the university made an incredible offer to Fleck at least a month and a half ago.
“We believe we had an unbelievable offer out there,” she said.
Beauregard wouldn’t reveal specifics, but said Fleck may have gone to Minnesota for less money.
“I honestly do not know what his agreement is with Minnesota,” said Beauregard. “I do know the answer here was all money that has been raised and committed by donors of this university, people that care a lot about Western Michigan and where we are headed.”
“After the Cotton Bowl, an opportunity (had) come that was something different, that if you had asked me first of all if that would be one of the jobs that was on his list as a top priority, I probably would have said ‘No.’ However, it is a Big Ten school, it’s an incredible university. They have challenges ahead of them – P.J. likes challenges. And we certainly are going to wish him the best,” she explained.
Beauregard said WMU waited to discuss a new contract with Fleck to avoid possible coaching changes that could distract the bowl-bound team.
“Certainly the timing is not the best, no doubt about that,” Beauregard added, saying the school would work fast on its list of recruits who previously committed to WMU.
Beauregard said the school is now focused on the student-athletes Fleck is leaving behind and finding the team’s next coach.
“I can tell you that the phone is already off the hook,” she said of the interest in WMU’s head coaching position.
School officials planned to meet with WMU players still in Kalamazoo Friday afternoon to talk about what happened and discuss what they’re looking for in their next coach.
“My first thoughts are really going to that student-athlete room because that’s the hardest. We have a group of young men in there that I don’t think necessarily expected this,” said Beauregard.
Outgoing WMU quarterback Zach Terrell was among the first players to post on social media about Fleck’s departure. Terrell thanked Fleck, saying the coach “changed the university and community forever.”
As for the students on campus, Fleck’s move let to mixed emotions.
“(I) didn’t really believe it at first,” one student told 24 Hour News 8.
“I’m surprised and a little hurt… I’m sad to see him go,” another said.
Without question, there’s a whole lot of gratitude for the former top Bronco and all that he helped the team accomplish.
“He took over Western and is like family to everyone. It’s sad to see him go, but at the end of the day, he’s gotta do what’s best for him and his family,” said Alex Johnson, whose father works at WMU.
Beauregard said the fact that other programs wanted to snatch up Fleck points to the program’s growth.
“It’s a good thing when people want your people,” she said.
Her goal now is to find a new leader to keep the Broncos on their winning path – and she has the support of the community.
“’You know what, Kathy? We trust you. Let’s go get another one,’” Beauregard recounted from a phone call. “That’s what we are going to do,” she said.
While Fleck is leaving, his “Row the Boat” philosophy will remain. Beauregard said she knows the mantra is deeply personal to Fleck and said there will be legal proceedings if Fleck takes it to Minnesota. WMU has licensed the phrase.