Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck hasn't pulled the Nick Saban. He hasn't said he's definitely staying at Western Michigan.
Fleck has been open and honest with his players and his bosses about his intentions.
For now, those intentions are to focus solely on Friday's Mid-American Conference championship game – the Broncos first since 2000, and a game they need to win if they're to remain undefeated and play in the Cotton Bowl, of the New Year's Six.
That's why Fleck has said he won't talk to any other schools until after Friday's game at Ford Field.
His agent, however, almost certainly has been at least fielding feelers for quite some time, as the young – he just turned 36 on Tuesday – brash motivator has shot up the wish list of college football programs in all corners of the country.
Fleck's had suitors every year he's been at WMU; yes, even the year the Broncos were 1-11. But they've increased, big-time, over the last couple years.
Athletic director Kathy Beauregard said earlier this month that she knows the day will come when Fleck will leave for greener pastures.
Beauregard, president John Dunn and a legion of donors just hope that day is not in the coming weeks, as WMU continues to search for all avenues to up Fleck's pay to keep him just a little while longer.
It's a noble effort — but possibly a fruitless one.
Here are five possible landing spots for Fleck in 2017.
Why: The Ducks have a reputation of flash and flair, and so does Fleck — who's also a heck of a promoter, which goes hand in hand with Oregon's biggest booster, Nike and founder Phil Knight. They also have a history of taking a chance on a young up-and-comer, as they did with Chip Kelly, who hadn't been a head coach at any level when he was promoted from offensive coordinator in 2009. In his second season, the mighty Ducks were playing in the national-championship game for the first time.
Why not: Fleck is a Midwestern guy, through and through. He grew up in Illinois, went to college in Illinois, and his only head-coaching experience is at Western Michigan, in Kalamazoo. It would certainly take time to learn the recruiting routes of the West Coast, where the big California schools are tough to compete with, though he figures to be a quick learner. He also recently got married to a Kalamazoo native, and might not want to make the drastic trek all the way across the country.
Pay grade: Just-fired coach Mark Helfrich made $3,312,700, according to USA Today's salary database.
Why: Most WMU fans like to argue this job is beneath Fleck, but let's get real for a second — Purdue is still a school in the Big Ten, a huge leap up from the Mid-American Conference, and it's located smack dab in the middle of the Midwest terrain he knows so well, so he won't miss one beat recruiting. With a new athletic director and $60 million in facility upgrades coming, Purdue is making a strong commitment again to football, which has had success not as long ago as folks seem to think.
Why not: The cupboard seems extremely bare, with the Boilermakers having won just eight games in the last three seasons. To put that in perspective, Rutgers — yes, awful, awful Rutgers — has won 14 games in that same span. And you're competing with Notre Dame on the recruiting trail, which is a tough gig. That said, Fleck took WMU from 1-11 to 12-0, and has been able to recruit just fine despite being 90 minutes or so from three behemoths, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Michigan.
Pay grade: Darrell Hazel, fired by new AD Mike Bobinski after a 3-3 start in 2016, earned $2,190,000.
Why: For starters, it's one program with a job opening that's coming off a great season, meaning there's talent in place — so the next coach figures to jump right into a good situation. It's also in recent history been a stepping stone to a "Power Five" conference job, with Tom Herman leaving after two years to take over Texas; previously, Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M and Art Briles left for Baylor. There's also so much prep talent in Texas, Fleck's sure to win some recruiting battles.
Why not: Some would consider this more of a lateral move, given he'd be going from one "Group of Five" school to another – even if the American Athletic Conference is looked at much more favorably than the Mid-American Conference. Just look at Navy, which, despite two losses, is seriously pushing undefeated Western Michigan for that coveted spot in the Cotton Bowl. The last four Houston coaches, though, have had prior experience coaching in Texas, at some level, which Fleck does not.
Pay grade: Herman earned $3,003,500.
Why: It just seems to make so much sense, even if Notre Dame typically has preferred a bit more experience. That's why if you talk to those folks around the WMU program, while there's some optimism Broncos donors can raise enough money to make it worth Fleck's while to stay, it'd certainly be a moot point if the Irish came calling. It's one of the most prestigous jobs in the country, being part-coach/part-politician helps — check and check — and it's basically in Fleck's backyard.
Why not: For starters, Brian Kelly remains the coach, and the athletic director gave him a strong vote of confidence during a disastrous 4-8 season. That said, Kelly was irked AD Jack Swarbrick even went public with that, given this was Year 1 of a six-year extension. Perhaps that's why there have been multiple reports Kelly has been snooping around for other job options. Oregon could be a match, and Kelly always has gotten antsy about the next job, and this could be a seven-year itch.
Pay grade: USA Today says Kelly earns $1,624,730, but it's likely the six-year extension he signed in January pays him a lot more than that. Notre Dame is a private school, so it doesn't have to release the contract terms.
Why: He's built something really special in Kalamazoo. In just four years, he's taken the Broncos from 1-11 to 12-0 and a spot in Friday's Mid-American Conference title game. A win there, and they'll likely crash the New Year's Six. Last year, he led WMU to its first-ever bowl win; this year, he led WMU to its first appearance in the national rankings. He's a hero in town, and it'd be hard to bolt a school that took a shot on him. And he can't take "Row the Boat" with him. WMU trademarked it.
Why not: What more can he really accomplish at Western Michigan? Let's be honest, here — he's about to have his Broncos 13-0, and it's still a debate whether they'll get the Cotton Bowl bid. Playing in the little-thought-of Mid-American Conference, a shot at the holy grail, a national championship, will never be in the cards. He's also losing several star players, including senior QB Zach Terrell and WR Corey Davis. If he stays, he risks his stock dipping with a down 2017.
Pay grade: Fleck earns a base salary of $820,360, easily tops in the MAC, with bonuses that will push him over $1 million.