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WMU's P.J. Fleck set for ESPN's 'Car Wash'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
P.J. Fleck

Western Michigan football coach P.J. Fleck will spend part of the Broncos’ bye week in Bristol, Conn., where on Tuesday, the founder of the "Row the Boat" mantra will go through the ESPN so-called "Car Wash."

The "Car Wash" is when a coach heads to ESPN's studios to make appearances on all the day's programming.

It's the first time ESPN has had a coach make a "Car Wash" appearance during the football season, and Fleck will be the first Mid-American Conference coach ever to be put through the ringer.

In Fleck's fourth year at Western, he has the Broncos 8-0 -- just one of nine undefeated teams remaining in Division I -- and ranked 20th in the AP poll and 21st in the coaches' poll.

His team's coming off a 45-31 victory over Eastern Michigan.

"I'm so proud to be a Kalamazoo citizen," Fleck, 35, said in an emotional moment following the victory over the Eagles.

The question everyone in Kalamazoo is asking, though, is how long he'll remain there.

He's long been considered an up-and-comer in college football coaching, and that pitch has reached its peak as Western Michigan has remained perfect and a possible participant in the New Year's Six bowl scenario.

Fleck is signed through 2020, but wouldn't be blocked by the university from pursuing bigger opportunities. The university, though, is bracing for a fight to keep him. This year, he'll make more than $1 million.

It's been widely assumed WMU wouldn't be able to afford to pay him much more, but athletic director Kathy Beauregard told The Detroit News recently that's not a fair assumption.

Meanwhile, university president John Dunn was asked in a recent radio interview if the university could enhance Fleck's financial package. He responded, according to MLive, "I'm quite confident those conversations have occurred already."

Still, can WMU go so much higher to keep Fleck from heading to a Power Five conference? Fired Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, for instance, made $2.14 million a year.

It might just come down to Fleck's affinity for West Michigan, which is where he met his wife, Heather.

Fleck has been a darling of ESPN this season, with "SportsCenter" anchor Scott Van Pelt even rowing the boat on-air. Western Michigan also has been featured in segments numerous times this year on "SportsCenter" and "College GameDay."

Here's a list of the shows Fleck will appear on Tuesday:

* SportsCenter, AM

* ESPN.com

* The Championship Drive

* Russillo & Kanell

* College Football Live

* ESPNU: Championship Drive: Power Hour

* The Paul Finebaum Show

* SportsCenter, PM

* College Football Playoff Top 25 Show

Western Michigan returns to action at Ball State on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Fleck is one of 23 coaches on the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year watch list, along with Michigan's Jim Harbaugh.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tonypaul1984