|PJ Fleck. Image via pantograph.com.|
PJ Fleck has made quite a reputation for himself during his four seasons at Western Michigan as both a head coach on the rise, and as being somewhat of a flakey bro-coach.
Fleck has led the Broncos to a 3-0 start so far in 2016, with wins over Big Ten schools Northwestern and Illinois. Continued success in 2016 could see Fleck become a highly sought-after candidate to be come head coach of a college football program with a higher profile.
Which schools might be interested in Fleck? It's still too early in the 2016 season, but there are programs that already look as though they will be for a new head coach following the end of the season, if not sooner.
Here are five "Power 5" conference schools that might look at Fleck, along with reasons why they might decide to go in another direction that doesn't include him.
Darrell Hazell is 7-31 as head coach of Purdue. He's yet to have a winning record in his four years in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue is currently 1-1 in its 2016 college football season, and has its Big Ten conference schedule looming.
The good news for Hazell is that the Boilermakers' aren't facing the heavy hitters of the Big Ten East, and only has to deal with Maryland, Penn State, and Indiana this season. The bad news is that Even going 2-1 against the B1G East, a lackluster West division record could send Hazell packing.
The case for Fleck: Purdue would be a good stepping stone for Fleck to further his coaching career. He's led two upset wins over Northwestern and Illinois, both of which just happen to be fellow B1G West division schools with Purdue.
The case against Fleck in 2016: He's 0-2 against B1G East division schools, and Northwestern may be his highest profile non-bowl game win.
Steve Addazio is in his fourth year as Boston College head coach. Despite going 7-6 in 2013 and 2014, he is coming off a 3-9 2015 season. 2016 looks like it could continue the downward spiral, as the Eagles have lost to ACC Costal opponents Georgia Tech and West Virginia.
The Eagles still have their full ACC Costal schedule ahead of it. With games against Clemson, Louisville and Florida State looming, a winning regular season may not be in the cards, and Addazio could be on the Hot Seat.
The case against Fleck in 2016: Boston College still has a theoretical good shot at going 6-6 and becoming bowl eligible. It has non-conference schools Wagner (an FCS school), Buffalo, and UConn coming up on the 2016 schedule. If Addazio wins all of those, and manages to lead the Eagles to wins over the lower tier of the ACC Costal (Syracuse, NC State, and Louisville), he could save his job.
Mark Stoops has yet to have a winning season at Kentucky. The 2016 season is looking any better, with a loss to C-USA program Southern Mississippi, and the Wildcats' annual thumping from Florida. This may be the season Kentucky decides to cut ties with Stoops.
The case against Fleck in 2017: Fleck's never faced an SEC school as a head coach. He was a graduate assistant on the 2006 Ohio State team that lost the BCS title to Florida. He was also a wide receivers coach for a Northern Illinois team that lost a 13-9 regular season game against Tennessee. With that kind of limited history against Kentucky's two biggest SEC rivals, it's doubtful he would be the Wildcats' first choice for the job.
Baylor is a surprising 3-0, which is surprising considering the chaos and controversy the program went through over the past few months. Jim Grobe has managed to navigate the Bears to success so far in the 2016 season, but its yet to be shown whether he can continue to do so as the team begins its Big 12 schedule this coming Saturday against Oklahoma State.
Even with a successful 2017 season, Grobe will probably not be Baylor's head coach following this season. The school will probably look for an younger, on-the-rise head coaching candidate as a long-term solution to rebuild the program.
The case against Fleck in 2017: The question is a much about Fleck wanting to deal with the fallout from the school's mismanagement of the sex scandal that brought down Art Briles as it does whether Baylor would want him.
2015 was the first season under head coach Mike Leach that Washington State has had a winning season. While Leach led the Cougars to a 9-4 record and a Sun Bowl win over Miami in 2015, he still has a 22-31 overall record since becoming the team's head coach in 2012.
Leach and Wazzou are 1-2 so far in 2017, repeating the usual cycle of embarrassing losses to non-Power 5 schools at the start of the season. A return to a losing record could cause Wazzou to reconsider Leach as its head coach.
The case against Fleck in 2017: After dealing a notoriously quirky head coach like Leach, Washington St. might want someone who isn't known for his eccentricities as much as his coaching success.