Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck is going into his second year at the reins of being the Broncos head man. After a disappointing 1-11 season in his first year it's hard to believe he and his staff have put together some of the best recruiting classes in not only MAC history but some of the top classes in all of college football.
The MAC media day was a chance for the media to find out what has been working for the boat rowers from Kalamazoo ("Row The Boat" is the team slogan). Coach Fleck was more than happy to answer the questions the media had, and was up-front and honest about the upcoming seasons.
In the two years Fleck has been around the WMU program he produced some of the most impressive recruiting classes the MAC has ever seen. In the 2014 recruiting class Fleck had 28 total commitments, including some of the state's top recruits. The 2015 season hasn't even started yet and the Broncos have 18 total commitments. To put things into perspective WMU has just as many commitments, if not more, than Auburn, Florida State, Texas A&M, Penn State, and Miami FL just to name a few.
Fleck is the youngest coach in all of college football at the age of 33 and might have one of the youngest teams in college football for the 2014 season. In his interview at media day he made the statement that he could see himself starting 14 true freshman for the upcoming season. "Winning is a process...... years 1 and 2 will be rough." Fleck stated.
Coach Fleck made a lot of noise, literally and figuratively when he took over the job at Western Michigan. He has made sure he has made his mark on the University by changing the culture and re-branding WMU. They started with making a new logo that he calls the "Ghost Bronco" which is an outline of a bronco head. Then coming up with the slogan of "Row The Boat" and running away with that slogan to go along with everything he has at WMU.
Row The Boat is on just about every piece of equipment and written on just about every wall in every facility at WMU. Fleck touched on how WMU has all new state of the art facilities on campus that has helped him and staff recruit some of the top guys around the country. With things like a new weight room, locker room, meeting rooms, and indoor practice field, WMU is up there with the big boys of college football.
The Broncos joined the trend of new jerseys having many different uniform combinations. With new helmet styles consisting of the University's three main colors, Fleck uses that as another advantage in his favor. Combinations anywhere from black, gold, brown and chrome has made sure it will be something the recruits will like.
The image of the University has changed and Fleck has installed an energetic attitude to go along with everything else he has done to get WMU football where he wants it to be. Waldo Stadium is one of the very few stadiums in the country that has a live DJ at games, which Fleck installed when coming to Kalamazoo.
So what does all this have to do with recruiting? It's the way coach Fleck operates, and knows he can get guys to come play for a MAC school in the state of Michigan. He no longer wants it to be Michigan and Michigan State running the show in the state, with Western, Eastern and Central as just the little brothers looking up and watching the big boys take what he knows they can get. Fleck has the image of WMU rubbing elbows with Michigan and Michigan State and wants to be put on that type of pedestal.
Now when it comes to the strategy of recruiting players, Fleck wants to own the state of Michigan in recruiting, but so does every other division one University in the state. He made his focus more on the southwest corner of the state and getting people from the Kalamazoo area to play there. Fleck mentioned the Chicago area as well and getting guys that may not be equipped to go to a school like Northwestern, or guys that may not want to go to Northern Illinois, but still be close enough to home where their families can come watch them play.
"I'm just being myself," Fleck stated when asked about what he does to get players to come play for him. He's had no trouble getting guys to believe in what he's doing even though the Broncos went 1-11 the season before. He wants his commitments to stay the course and things will pan out just fine if they do that.
Not only a coach, Fleck also seems to be a businessman. He knows getting close to home recruits will bring people to the stadium to watch games like moms, dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, teachers, and coaches. It's easy to get people to come to games that are already right there in the area. But they will still look for talent in states like Florida and Texas. Attendance seems to be a topic that really interests PJ and his staff, and they would like Waldo Stadium to be the place to be on a Saturday afternoon in the fall.
Coach Fleck made the statement that all the pieces are set and they have everything that they need now to become a winning program, but winning is a process and isn't something that will come right away. It's a complete rebuild and it will be done the way Coach Fleck wants it to be done. A few years down the road he will have the experience of his younger players and will be able to hopefully compete in the MAC.