Football coach P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan University are in active negotiations on a contract extension that is close to becoming finalized, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
The source requested anonymity because the contract hasn't yet been announced.
Fleck has led Western Michigan to its best football season ever, at 13-0 -- which included the program's first Mid-American Conference championship since 1988, and an upcoming trip to the Cotton Bowl.
The new contract is expected to bump Fleck's base pay beyond the $800,000 of his current deal, which already made him easily the best-compensated coach in the conference. A litany of attained bonuses this year pushed his salary beyond $1 million.
The source couldn't say how big a raise Fleck stands to receive.
"Coach Fleck and Western Michigan have continued contract negotiations to remain at WMU throughout the season," athletic director Kathy Beauregard told The Detroit News on Thursday night. "He has committed 100 percent to his student-athletes throughout this undefeated MAC championship season. He will continue to make that his No. 1 priority as we prepare for the Cotton Bowl."
Beauregard four years ago took a chance on Fleck, who had zero head-coaching experience or even coordinator experience. She told The Detroit News last month that the popular assumption that the school couldn't afford to keep him was false.
WMU donors have been working on coming up with the funds to help retain the 36-year-old Fleck.
Donors believe he's worth the money, given all the national exposure he's brought the university -- including a visit from ESPN's "College GameDay," multiple features on ESPN's "SportsCenter," and even a trip by Fleck to Bristol, Connecticut, to participate in ESPN's so-called "Car Wash" during WMU's bye week.
Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post and other national outlets have written extensive features on WMU and Fleck this season.
This would be the second extension Fleck has received, after just four full seasons. He's had interest from other schools every year he's been at WMU. His new contract would add multiple years to his current deal, which now runs through 2020, the source said.
Currently, Fleck's buyout were he to leave for another job is $600,000. It's possible that could increase as a concession for more base pay, especially with other big jobs possibly opening in the coming years, like, say, Notre Dame.
After a 29-23 victory over Ohio in the MAC championship game at Ford Field earlier this month, Fleck's name started being tied to several openings around the country, but one by one, those jobs -- LSU, Oregon, Purdue, Indiana, Houston, Baylor, etc. -- started to get filled.
Fleck's name mostly was tied to Oregon and Purdue, but it appears he wasn't interviewed for either. He is said to not be interested in the current opening at Cincinnati, or the ones at South Florida or Temple. If he was going to bolt Western Michigan, it was likely going to be for a Power Five conference job. Fleck, an Illinois native who recently married a woman who's a Kalamazoo native, also was reportedly interested in remaining close to home. P.J. and Heather Fleck have four children between them.
Fleck has made no public comment on his job status since Sunday's Cotton Bowl announcement.
Asked about the rumors following the MAC championship game, Fleck said, "If you don't live in the moment, you're going to be miserable, and I don't want to be miserable tonight."
Still, the timing seemed right to pursue bigger, more lucrative jobs for a couple reasons. For starters, a 13-0 record at WMU didn't get the Broncos even a sniff from the College Football Playoff committee. In other words, he might've reached his ceiling at WMU. Plus, he stands to lose his best two players, quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis, to graduation, and the non-conference schedule is tough in 2017, with trips to Southern California and Michigan State.
Instead, Fleck seemingly will continue to "Row the Boat" in Kalamazoo. Had he left, by the way, "Row the Boat" would've stayed behind, as Western Michigan owns the trademark on the phrase that Fleck first introduced to the school and the community.
Fleck is finishing his fourth year as head coach at WMU, which he's taken from 1-11 in Year 1 to 13-0 and nationally ranked in Year 4. WMU is ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll, 14th in the coaches' poll and 15th in the final CFP rankings. Fleck also has been instrumental in raising funds for significant facility upgrades on WMU's campus.
This season, led by a high-octane offense and a turnover margin of plus-19, the Broncos had wins over Northwestern and Illinois in non-conference play, a drubbing of rival Central Michigan and a sound defeat of a good Toledo team in the regular-season finale.
Before a record MAC title-game crowd of more than 45,000 at Ford Field, WMU held on to beat Ohio (8-5), with Robert Spillane's interception in the final minute sealing a victory that looked certain at halftime.
Next up is Wisconsin (10-3) in the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Fleck's new deal is expected to be announced before the bowl game.
This year, with bonuses, WMU coach P.J. Fleck had made more than $1.05 million, with other bonuses still possible. Here's a breakdown:
* Base salary -- $800,000
* Car allowance -- $400
* Cell-phone allowance -- $400
* Game-day suite -- estimated $10,000
* Country-club membership -- estimated $10,000
* MAC West division title -- $30,000
* MAC championship -- $50,000
* Bowl bid -- $25,000
* MAC coach of the year -- $15,000
* Region coach of the year -- $15,000
* Grade-point average bonus -- estimated $7,000
* Average game-day attendance between 20,000-25,000 -- $8,000
* $10,000 for each regular-season win, seven-12 -- $60,000
* MAC first-team -- $8,000 ($2,000, times four)
* MAC second-team -- $12,000 ($1,500, times eight)
* MAC third-team -- $2,000 ($1,000, times two)
* Academic All-American -- $4,000 ($4,000, times one)
Fleck can earn approximately another $85,000, if he wins a bowl game, and is named national coach of the year, plus additional money for academic awards.