Charley Walters: P.J. Fleck’s new UMN deal ‘good and reasonable’

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel is paid $640,000 a year. Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck is the state’s highest-paid public employee at $3.6 million a year. Next year, Fleck’s salary, by way of a $33 million contract extension, increases to $4.6 million.

Minnesota Gophers coach P.J. Fleck talks to fellow coaches against Georgia Southern in the first quarter of a game at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Minnesota beat Georgia Southern, 35-32. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Michael Hsu, a member of the university’s board of regents, said Fleck’s deal is “good and reasonable, and we’re happy that P.J.’s staying.”

Hsu said Fleck’s salary, compared to that of Gabel, is “unfortunately outside of our control because of the way the football business has gone in terms of both professional and college. Good coaches just make a lot of money.”

That’s probably going to change, Hsu said, “as the students (athletes) start expressing their concerns and belief that they should be able to make some money at the same time.”

Hsu supports student athletes being compensated for their name, image and likeness, legislation that the NCAA, under recent pressure from lawmakers, will put in effect in three years.

“This is all kind of stuff that’s going to have to start happening if college sports is going to continue,” he said.

Athletics at Minnesota have become big business.

“We had a football coach years ago who actually said there’s no way my salary should be higher than the president’s,” Hsu said. “But that was like 50 years ago. When I was in high school, in 1980 — I grew up in Ames, Iowa — the highest-paid basketball coach in the country was Johnny Orr at Iowa State. He made like $43,000.

“So things have kind of gotten crazy, as we all know.”

Fleck’s salary, Hsu said, “is not (Michigan football coach) Jim Harbaugh money ($7.5 million), it’s not (Clemson’s Dabo) Swinney money ($9.3 million), it’s not (Alabama’s) Nick Saban money ($8.3 million). But in a few years it might get to that.”

Hsu added of Fleck’s deal, “I really like the fact that there’s a $10 million (first-year contract) buyout.”

Fleck will receive a $100,000 bonus if he is named national coach of the year, $50,000 (which now seems likely) for Big Ten coach of the year. He would receive $300,000 if the Gophers were to win the national championship.

On Saturday, on the heels of Fleck’s extension that runs through 2026, Nebraska extended football coach Scott Frost’s $5 million per season contract by two years. It runs through 2026. Frost’s record in two years at Nebraska is 8-14.

People in the service industries around town who’ve encountered current Gophers football players say how impressed they’ve been with how well-mannered the players are.

Texas A&M basketball coach Buzz Williams, an admirer of Fleck, on the eccentric Gophers coach, on Yahoo Sports: “He’s not a quack. He may be a genius.”

The Big Ten football championship game will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in Indianapolis at the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Tickets range from $50 to $90, with a limit of eight per order. The West Division champion will be the home team.

Rose Bowl tickets (stadium capacity 90,888) for the Jan. 1 game in Pasadena, Calif., were available on Vividseats.com for $181 last week and ranged up to $1,914. Suite tickets were available for $25,396 and $36,570.

Average secondary market ticket price for Sunday afternoon’s Vikings-Broncos game in Minneapolis is $262.70, according to TickPick, with the cheapest ticket $190.

For the Monday night Dec. 23 Vikings-Packers game at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will cost $277 just to get into the stadium.

The superb broadcasting crew of Rich Gannon, Kevin Harlan and Jay Feely will call the Vikings-Broncos game for CBS.

Karl-Anthony Towns’ $27.285 million is not the top Timberwolves salary this season. Andrew Wiggins is making $27,504,630.

Had Towns, 23, redshirted a year at Kentucky and not opted early for the NBA draft, he would have been a senior for the Wildcats this season.

Towns, by the way, is featured on a Nickelodeon TV episode with a saxophone and pop star Beyonce.

Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders speaks at a Dunkers breakfast on Thursday at the Minneapolis Club.

First-year Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg was in St. Paul last week recruiting Cretin-Derham Hall sophomore point guard Tre Holloman.

It’s down to the Gophers and Marquette for Prior Lake 6-foot-11 senior Dawson Garcia, who is expected to decide this week.

Kerwin Walton, the 6-5 senior shooting guard for Hopkins, was to visit Vanderbilt this weekend.

After four games, Matthew Hurt, the Rochester John Marshall grad, is averaging 10.8 points as a freshman at Duke (4-0). Sophomore teammate Tre Jones from Apple Valley leads the No. 2 Blue Devils in scoring with 17 per game.

After two games for the Timberwolves’ Iowa G League team, former Gophers double-double star Jordan Murphy is averaging five points and five rebounds.

Ex-Gophers basketball star Kris Humphries and his father, William, a former Gophers football standout, have bought ex-Viking Matt Kalil’s Pieology pizza shop in St. Paul’s Highland Park and turned it into a Crisp & Green salad parlor.

The Humphries now own three Crisp & Green eateries and 10 Five Guys hamburger franchises. Among salad clients is the Gophers football team, which orders 155 plates at a time. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is a regular Five Guys customer at the outlet just down the road from Lambeau Field.

Kris Humphries, 34, the former Mr. Basketball Minnesota from Hopkins, made some $62 million during 13 NBA seasons.

Bobby Bell, 79, the former Gophers All-American, owned five barbecue restaurants in Kansas City, Mo., where he became a Pro Football Hall of Famer for the Chiefs, and sold them at age 50.

Bell, by the way, attended his alma mater’s upset of Penn State, and he spoke to the team a day before the victory over Penn State.

“Hey, guys, you’re in the driver’s seat,” Bell told the team.

Ex-Twin Torii Hunter’s two “Tender Smokehouse” restaurants are rated among the best barbecue eateries in Texas by Yelp.

That was Gophers sophomore football spiritual leader-captain Casey O’Brien brunching at the Lexington in St. Paul last weekend.

Cretin-Derham Hall grad Chris Weinke, 47, the 2000 Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State and now QB coach at Tennessee, last week was inducted into the State of Florida Sports Hall of Fame with ex-Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper, 42.

Bobby Johnson, the Edina native who played infield for the 1966 World Series champion Baltimore Orioles and lived in St. Paul, died last weekend at age 83.

Condolences to the family of well-liked Nick Cenaiko Jr., whose family ran the Home and Patio Show, the Sportsmen’s Show and Boat Shows in downtown St. Paul for years. Nick died at age 55 last weekend after a blood infection.

Ubiquitous Gary Smith, who was Herb Brooks’ 1980 Olympic hockey gold medal trainer, the other day became the first athletic trainer inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame. Smith has been trainer for the Gophers, Philadelphia Flyers, Kicks and Strikers soccer among other teams and currently works at Eden Prairie High School.

Longtime Gophers trainer Jim Marshall, 89, underwent serious colon surgery the other day.

Also wishing the best for retired legendary St. Olaf baseball coach Jim Dimick, who has chronic kidney disease and a blood cancer condition.

Due to supplier shipping complications, an Adam Thielen Minnesota State Mankato bobblehead promotion has been temporarily postponed.

Wild assistant general manager Tom Kurvers, the former Hobey Baker winner who is among hockey’s classiest guys, headlines the Hockey Old Timers Thanksgiving luncheon on Nov. 25 at Mancini’s. Dick Jonckowski emcees.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association has both the No. 1-ranked teams in the country, Minnesota State Mankato for men and the Gophers for women.

Ballpark Tour’s Julian Loscalzo from St. Paul has 22 baseball sightseers visiting Cuba this week during the capital Havana’s 500th founding anniversary.

The storied skiing career of Lindsey Vonn, born in St. Paul, will be featured on a HBO documentary debuting on Nov. 26.

DON’T PRINT THAT

Kirk Cousins, 31, is guaranteed $29.5 million for the 2020 season, the final year of his contract. If the Vikings decide to extend his contract, it probably will occur between next February and July. There is no upside for the team to do it now.

So much of Cousins’ future with the Vikings now depends on how this season ends. Should the Vikings end up winning a playoff game or two, it’s a good bet that Cousins’ deal will be extended with slight increases.

Also, there would be a good chance that offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will be sought as a head coach.

If Dalvin Cook remains healthy, he’ll be looking at a new Vikings contract worth about $45 million over three years beginning next season, although it could take a holdout to get it.

With six games remaining, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who has six sacks, needs two more for a $500,000 bonus.

The six sacks are also part of a contract incentive that probably will allow Griffen, 31, barring injury, to void the final three years of his current deal and become a free agent after the season.

It’ll be interesting whether ESPN’s “College Gameday” makes its first visit to Minneapolis for the Gophers-Wisconsin anticipated sellout in two weeks. And if so, whether the nationally televised game would be in prime time at night, which would be a recruiting and marketing coup on a holiday weekend.

Tickets for the Wisconsin game ranged from $103.68 to $4,607.50 on Friday on StubHub.

There’s little doubt that Gophers football season tickets will increase in price next year, perhaps 5 percent across the board. This year’s attendance, which averages 44,929 not counting an anticipated sellout of about 51,800 in the regular season finale against Wisconsin on Nov. 30, is an average per game increase of 7,014 over last season.

For the Penn State game, one parking lot near the stadium increased its fee from $30 to $35. Meanwhile, anticipating a huge crowd, an airplane dragged an advertising banner back and forth over the stadium before the game.

Look for the Gophers next season to permanently move to the sunny side of TCF Bank Stadium for games.

For Gophers rooters who couldn’t attend last week’s dramatic upset of Penn State in Minneapolis, there were University of Minnesota alumni game-viewing parties in Arizona, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Illinois, New York and Texas.

Faith: Gophers football season-ticket holder Ethan Bischoff, a computer consultant from St. Paul, before this season reserved two hotel rooms in Pasadena, Calif., for his young family because he figured Minnesota could be playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 1962.

The suspension the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns got for tangling with the 76ers’ Joel Embiid in Philadelphia cost him $67,000.

There were so many applications for a replacement for departed Twins mascot T.C. Bear that they had to be cut off.

That was former Gophers men’s interim head basketball coach Jim Molinari working as an assistant for the Oklahoma team that defeated the Gophers 71-62 on Nov. 9.

Pssst: It’s still not a given that the NCAA will allow the University of St. Thomas, ousted by the Division III MIAC, to reclassify to Division I. But St. Thomas is confident that the NCAA, because of extenuating circumstances, will allow the transition rather than first requiring an upgrade to Division II.

It turns out that former Twins Tony Oliva, who turns 82 next July, and Jim Kaat, who turned 81 this month, have to wait until next fall for veterans committee consideration for the hall of fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. They’ll fall into the 1950-1969 era, and it will be shocking if neither is among the 10 ballot finalists.

There’s still nothing regarding a minor league affiliation between the Twins and cross-town independent league St. Paul Saints. But if that ever changes, the Saints most likely would replace Triple-A Rochester.

Troy Hudson, 43, the former Timberwolves point guard, has become the team’s chaplain. He’s also head girls basketball coach at Eagles Academy in Hopkins and for the Edina seventh-grade girls traveling team.

Pitcher Michael Baumann, 24, from Mahtomedi is ranked the ninth-best prospect in the Baltimore Orioles’ system by Baseball Prospectus. Baumann, 24, went unsigned by the Twins as their 34th-round draft pick five years ago, then accepted a $500,000 bonus from the Orioles as their third-round pick two years ago. The right-hander struck out 142 in 124 minor league innings this year.

Nick Haag, 39, is leaving after seven years as head golf professional at Stillwater Country Club to commit more time to a young family.

The Wild have 50-to-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup on BetOnLine.ag, but that’s better than the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators.

OVERHEARD

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms, on the best running back in the NFL: “It’s arguably (the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook) or (Carolina’s) Christian McCaffrey. (Cook) is a home run hitter. When he sees a seam, he puts his foot in the ground and goes from zero to 60 in two seconds.”


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