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P.J. Fleck Defends Minnesota Football Program Amid Toxic Culture Allegations

  • The head coach says, ‘these allegations are baseless’ at Big 10 Media Day.
  • ‘My energy needs to be on the 2023 football team, and that only, and not the allegations.’
P.J. Fleck speaks at Big 10 Media Day.
Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — University of Minnesota head football coach P.J. Fleck took to the podium at Big Ten Football Media Days to defend his program Thursday, a day after Front Office Sports reported allegations of toxic culture under his leadership at the school.

“These allegations are baseless,” said Fleck, who is entering his seventh season with the Golden Gophers. “We have the full support of our athletic director, Mark Coyle, and our university leadership.”

Several former Minnesota football players — including starters — along with multiple former staff members detailed allegations of punishments used as workouts in violation of school and NCAA policy, using a Fleck Bank that allowed players to avoid punishment for rules violations and a cult-like environment within the program.

“We do not use physical activity to discipline our players at the University of Minnesota,” Fleck said. “We have never done that. Our athletic department changed their policies and made sure that no physical activity of any sort could be used as punishment based on what we created as a football team.”

A September 2018 report obtained by FOS called for better policies regarding training players — including calling for the end of workouts as punishments — and treating injured athletes at the school. That investigation by the U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health (USCAH) did not specify what sports had issues.

“Regardless of the number of incidents of exercise punishment that have occurred, the practice must be ended immediately,” the report stated. “Significant safety issues are always the concern when physical workouts are used as a form of punishment.”

Six players described the use of such workouts — including one who contacted FOS after Wednesday’s story — were used from his arrival at Minnesota in 2017 through the 2021 season.

“We’re one of the most transparent programs in the country,” Fleck said. “There are tons of testimonials from past, present, and even future Gophers to support that. My energy needs to be on the 2023 football team, and that only, and not the allegations.”

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