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Could P.J. Fleck leave the Gophers for USC?

BetOnline lists Fleck as the favorite to be the Trojans' next head coach.
P.J. Fleck

When a program like the Gopher football team has success, it's only a matter of time until the bigger schools start calling. With USC firing head coach Clay Helton earlier this week, it appears that the Trojans have their eyes set on P.J. Fleck to replace him.

According to BetOnline, Fleck is listed as the favorite to become the next full-time head coach of the Trojans. Fleck's current odds at +650 are above other top college coaches such as Iowa State's Matt Campbell (+750), Oregon's Mario Cristobal (+900) and Cincinnati's Luke Fickell (+750).

Fleck also has better odds than several coaching legends including Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer (+700) and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops (+900).

The Gophers have risen to respectability under Fleck, posting a 27-20 record since his arrival in 2017. His best season came in 2019 when the Gophers went 11-2 and achieved its highest win total since 1904.

That season's success helped Fleck earn a five-year, $18 million extension that runs through 2026 but it's not an ironclad deal. Fleck's contract has a buyout that started at $10 million if he left after the 2019 season but has shrunk to $3 million if he leaves after 2021 or 2022.

That would be a small price to pay if the Trojans chose to pursue Fleck as they have more resources than the Gophers. USC was paying Helton $4.6 million this season prior to his dismissal and could offer a raise on Fleck's $4.75 million annual salary with the Gophers.

In the early stages of USC's search, Fleck has been mentioned as a candidate by ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel. It's also not the first time Fleck has gained interest as he was reportedly a candidate for an NFL team last December.

But Fleck didn't seem interested in leaving back at the time of his extension and could remain with the Gophers much like when Helton was on the hot seat toward the end of that season.

“A lot of times, it’s easy for coaches to pick up and leave, go different places,” Fleck said in 2019. “These are very special people. I believe in what we can do here at the University of Minnesota because of them, because of the recruits we have committed … because of our players now."

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