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December 18, 2012
Western Michigan football fans had heard that it would only take a few words out of P.J. Fleck's mouth to convince them he was the right man to lead the WMU football program.
If they hadn't heard it in the last day, they heard it from athletic director Kathy Beauregard just before Fleck spoke at his inaugural press conference.
"Honestly, when you hear him speak, you're going to understand why he's going to be the next leader," Beauregard offered as she introduced WMU's 15th head coach.
While there has been some doubt as to whether Fleck has the proper experience and background to be a head coach in FBS football, his energy and charisma are not in question after the speech given today. Fleck opened with a line that harkened back to his days as a wide receiver at Northern Illinois.
"It's great to be back in the MAC!" he stated emphatically.
At times, the 32-year-old was practically screaming into the microphone, painting a picture of a Western Michigan program where anything was possible. The possibility of making a BCS bowl was thrown around, referencing NIU's current run to the Orange Bowl. Crowds of 36,000 at Waldo Stadium were named as a goal.
If nothing else, Fleck has set the bar high for himself.
Indeed, it felt like a day of celebration inside WMU's Seelye Center. While there will be plenty of time for questions, even hand-wringing, about Fleck's experience level and lack of coordinator experience, today he deflected questions about those issues deftly.
"When thinking about becoming a head coach, a lot of things come up," Fleck acknowledged. "I've never been a coordinator, never been a head football coach. The job of a head football coach, in my opinion, is to lead. Lead men. Not manage them. Our staff and players will learn how to lead."
Beauregard and university president John Dunn emphasized something that had been speculated on, the culture change idea that had been thrown around so often when talking about hiring the Broncos' next head coach. Indeed, the differences between Fleck and the more mild-mannered Bill Cubit were more than apparent.
When talking about what the players wanted out of their coach, Beauregard mentioned Fleck's youth as a positive factor, as he could relate to the players and their problems. She indicated that the players sat down with the administration early in the search and their opinions were taken very seriously.
"First of all, they talked about how they want a positive coaching energy around the program. They definitely wanted someone with Midwest recruiting success, who knew that we could look at expanding some of our recruiting area back to the Midwest," Beauregard added.
Safety Justin Currie, a rising junior, agreed that Fleck fit what they were looking for.
"He fit our criteria pretty perfectly," Currie told BroncoBlitz.com following the speech. "I can't think of one thing we asked for that he doesn't have."
As Fleck shifted gears from his emotional opening towards the nuts and bolts of his operation of the program, the staff he will hire came up as a key aspect of his success or failure as a coach. Indeed, as someone who may not be as well versed in the strategic aspects of coaching just yet, hiring coordinators and positional coaches will be key as Fleck focuses more energy on recruiting and motivation.
"It's going to be the people I surround myself with. I'll have two great coordinators, and they'll do a fabulous job. It's important to surround myself with people who have strengths that might be my weaknesses," Fleck explained.
Fleck will coach out the remainder of the season with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining Western Michigan just after the new year.
Stick with BroncoBlitz in the coming days as we cover the coaching hire from all angles.
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