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MINNESOTA'S PJ FLECK RESPONDS TO TOXIC CULTURE RUMORS IN THE GOPHERS’ PROGRAM


Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach PJ Fleck received some criticism this week for what was described as a toxic culture within the Minnesota football program. In an article from Front Office Sports, a number of former players and staff described the environment as being “cult” like. Those who were interviewed by Front Office Sports (FOS) were granted anonymity to prevent any backlash as some are still involved in football in some capacity.


In the FOS story, the players mentioned “the Fleck Bank”, a system that allowed players with enough “coins” to get away with violations of team rules, including positive drug tests. The FOS story also states “The Fleck Bank tracked community service – including visiting patients at the University of Minnesota Medical Center with Fleck – and was a way to keep tabs on players’ studying habits, multiple former players said. Two former players said those who provided information on other players were given Fleck Bank credits”

On Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at Big Ten media days in Indianapolis, Coach Fleck was asked about the report from FOS. His response was an explanation of what The Fleck Bank actually is.

“The Fleck Bank, mostly used in 2017 and 2018 was an analogy in a team meeting. Talking about the more you invest in a program the better experience you’re going to get out of it.” It was an analogy simply to explain investment for life, a life lesson of investment, simply that. No one ever got out of any type of punishment for that.”
“We have around a half dozen anonymous reporting avenues within our football program that players can go to if they have an issue. Protection for All; EOAA Office; Mental Health Support; SAC; Leadership Council and our athletic director Mark Coyle gives his phone number, his cell phone, to every single football player to call him if they have any issue. And to this date there have been zero claims on this issue. Zero.”
“We do not use physical activity to discipline our players at the University of Minnesota. We have never done that. Our players do things like, they wake up early and clean the weight room. Whatever you did you watch a video on that. If you were late to class you watch a video on tardiness. You then write your professor a letter.”
“These allegations are baseless. We have full support of our AD Mark Coyle and our university leadership.”

Another allegation mentioned in the FOS story was that Fleck interfered with medical protocols to get injured players to return earlier than expected. One player mentioned Fleck did this by

“minimizing the seriousness of some pretty horrendous injuries.” Fleck was not asked about it nor did he mention this specific allegation in his Big Ten media days press conference.

Fleck is 44-27 entering his seventh season as the head coach of Minnesota. His Gopher teams have played in four bowl games, winning all four. In December of 2022, Fleck signed a contract extension to remain the Minnesota head coach through 2029 with an annual salary reportedly to be around $6 million.

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