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P.J. Fleck signed what is believed to be the richest contract in Mid-American Conference history Thursday, inking a six-year, $4.8 million deal which will keep him as Western Michigan's head football coach through the 2020 season.

"I am very excited and very eager to strengthen my commitment to Western Michigan," Fleck said in a statement released from Boise, Idaho, where the Broncos are preparing to play Air Force on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. "WMU is an elite institution due to the support of the city, staff, donors, alumni and entire university working together as one team.

"It's really probably one of the greatest days in my life because people truly believe in you. All my life I've had people believe in me and take a chance on me and (WMU athletic director) Kathy Beauregard was one that really did that. I wouldn't be sitting where I am today, I'd be teaching sixth-grade social studies if it wasn't for the people that believed in me and saw things in me that other people couldn't see, took a chance, weren't afraid of change and weren't afraid of failing."

At 34, Fleck is the youngest head coach in the country. He guided the Broncos to an 8-4 record (6-2 MAC West) in his second season at Western after a 1-11 mark his rookie year.

He's also brought in plenty of talent. Last year's recruting class, which included running back MAC Freshman and Offensive Player of the Year Jarvion Franklin, was ranked No. 59 by Rivals.com, a MAC record. Next year's class is ranked No. 63 by Rivals.com.

"When we hired P.J. two years ago, we were looking for someone who would, first and foremost, develop positive and motivating relationships with our student athletes, someone who would positively identify with recruits and their families and someone who would bring an effusive energy level that resulted in a winning mindset," Beauregard said. "Today's announcement of a contract extension for P.J. is a direct reflection of P.J. and his staff having developed not only a winning mindset, not just a winning team, but a winning total program.

"We are certainly very pleased and excited to be able to secure P.J. as our head football Bronco into the future. Today, a truly great day to be a Bronco, certainly would not be possible without the generous support of donors who truly recognize the value of creating and sustaining an elite level program here in Kalamazoo."

Fleck, named the MAC Coach of the Year earlier this month, will get a base salary of $225,000 with other guaranteed compensation โ€” secured from external donors โ€” pushing the guaranteed total annual compensation to $800,000. He made $392,500 this past season, including a base salary of $210,000.

Fleck also will be eligible for other success-based incentives โ€” such as for winning Western's first MAC championship since 1988. The Broncos last competed in the MAC title game in 2000.

Ohio coach Frank Solich, the dean of MAC coaches, was the highest-paid conference coach at $554,500 according to USA Today earlier this year. Rod Carey, coach of MAC champion Northern Illinois, earned upward of $500,000 this season.

Beauregard said last week that Fleck helped raise between $3-4 million in fundraising to renovate the Bill Brown Football Alumni Center, including the WMU football locker room and provide new turf in the Seelye Indoor facility and Waldo Stadium.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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