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WMU's P.J. Fleck among Bryant Award finalists

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
P.J. Fleck

Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck this week was announced as one of nine finalists for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award, following the Broncos' 13-0 season and bid in the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl.

Fleck is the only Michigan coach to make the final cut, as Michigan's Jim Harbaugh was left out.

The other finalists are: Wisconsin's Paul Chryst, Penn State's James Franklin, Southern California's Clay Helton, West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre, Alabama's Nick Saban, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Clemson's Dabo Swinney, who won the award last season.

The winner will be announced Jan. 11 in Houston.

Fleck also is one of five finalists for the American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year Award, along with Saban, Holgorsen, MacIntyre and Navy's Ken Niumatalolo. That winner will be announced Jan. 10 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fleck, if he wins the AFCA honor, stands to receive a $25,000 bonus as part of his current contract. Negotiations are well down the road on an extension that will net him a raise from his $800,000 base salary and more years behind the current term, which runs through 2020.

The Detroit News first reported on the extension talks, and a contract should be finalized and announced before the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas.

Fleck guided Western Michigan to its first Mid-American Conference championship since 1988, and its biggest bowl game ever. The Broncos are 12th in the Associated Press poll, 14th in the coaches' poll and 15th in the final College Football Playoff rankings. Prior to 2016, they'd never been ranked.

Western Michigan and Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country, are the lone unbeaten teams left.

The Bryant award is named for the legendary Alabama coach, and has been handed out since 1986.

The only other coach from Michigan to win that award was Michigan's Lloyd Carr in 1997.

As for the AFCA award, handed out since 1935, no Michigan coach has won that since Carr in 1997. Other winners from Michigan include Fritz Crisler (UM, 1947), Bennie Oosterbaan (UM, 1948), Clarence Munn (MSU, 1952), Duffy Daugherty (MSU, 1955) and Bo Schembechler (UM, 1969).

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