WMU star on P.J. Fleck returning: 'It's amazing'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Robert Spillane

Western Michigan junior linebacker Robert Spillane said the players never spent much time at all this season or even after the Mid-American Conference championship game thinking about if or when head coach P.J. Fleck would leave for another job.

That's not to say they weren't thrilled to hear the news recently that Fleck and the university are close to a contract extension.

"It's amazing for us as a program and our growth," Spillane said after practice in Kalamazoo on Tuesday. "It just means more great recruits, more great coaching. Our staff is amazing. It's awesome to hear they're going to be staying."

Fleck, 36, is in his fourth year as WMU head coach, and his current deal runs through 2020.

After the MAC championship game victory earlier this month, Fleck and his agent fielded multiple calls from interested schools, but there wasn't the right fit. Fleck, who will make more than $1 million this season with bonuses, wasn't going to entertain another "Group of Five" job -- Cincinnati, Houston, etc. -- and wasn't overly enamored with Purdue. Oregon wasn't interested in him.

So Fleck and WMU, thanks to some heavily-invested community donors, now are well down the road on a contract that will increase his salary (currently $800,000 base) and add multiple years onto the deal. The extension, first reported by The Detroit News, is expected to be announced before the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas.

"He's gonna have opportunities to go and that's up to him," Spillane said. "He knows that he has something great here in Kalamazoo.

"It's really awesome knowing he is going to stay and be our coach."

WMU is 13-0 and ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll, 14th in the coaches' poll and 15th in the final College Football Playoff rankings.


Twitter @tonypaul1984