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February 5, 2013
It's been a busy couple of months for Western Michigan athletics, and nobody knows that better than athletic director Kathy Beauregard. In the past 60 days alone, she has conducted a national football coaching search resulting in the hire of P.J. Fleck, hired a successful local soccer coach in Chad Wiseman, and watched the men's basketball and hockey teams exceed expectations.
Likely the highest-profile, and easily the busiest, of these events for Beauregard was the hiring of Fleck as the new head coach of the WMU football program. Many have given their early opinions of the hire. With Fleck's first major event in National Signing Day just hours away, BroncoBlitz's D.J. Duckett secured an exclusive interview with Kathy Beauregard to discuss the coaching search and coach Fleck's time on the job thus far.
It was a team effort for the administration in finding a head coach for the program, with much of the athletic administrative staff involved. There have been some questions as to just how involved WMU President John Dunn was in the process, something that Beauregard addressed early on.
"We did have Dr. Dunn involved at the end of the process," she said. "When the coaches visited campus, they spent time with the president, so we could get his input. He made it very certain that it was my hire, and that it was my recommendation to him."
At the beginning of the process, there was some deliberation in deciding whether or not to use a search firm for the hiring. In the end, Beauregard and the rest of the administration decided to go in a different direction.
Instead, the process involved talking with many high-profile coaches, administrators and athletic directors around the country to assist in finding the most appropriate candidate possible.
"I bet I talked to 15 or 20 athletic directors," Beauregard estimated. "One that was important to me, to talk to was Paul Krebs, who is now the athletic director at New Mexico, and was the AD at Bowling Green who hired Urban Meyer. Paul and I are good friends, and I certainly wanted to get his input. But one of my other reasons I wanted to involve him was because he hired Urban at a young age, and hired him out of Notre Dame as a non-coordinator."
This, of course, was the direction that WMU ended up taking with the hiring of Fleck, who came to Western Michigan with plenty of coaching experience, but no coordinator experience at the young age of 32.
Beauregard said that Krebs' input was very valuable in ultimately choosing Fleck, as the UNM AD gave her ten reasons that he chose Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, which influenced her perception of Fleck as a hire.
At various points of the process, there were very high-profile names that were assisting Beauregard in the search. Obviously Greg Schiano, who worked with Fleck extensively throughout his career, was consulted, but Beauregard also mentioned Jerry Kill, Brian Kelly, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Bob Stoops, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Mattison as giving counsel.
"I tried to get head coaches that were all over the country, that had connections with some of the candidates we were looking at. Some that had coached with them, some that had coached for them, been with them at different times in their careers," Beauregard said.
With the help of these power players around the country, Beauregard says she was able to put together a group of 15-20 coaches that were under strong consideration for the job. Of those, five were formally interviewed. Beauregard declined to name those five or confirm any rumors that have swirled.
Certainly the hand-wringing that was so prevalent throughout the search had much to do with the length of the search, something which Beauregard says wasn't necessarily by design, but wasn't out of desperation either.
Instead, she says the length had to do with the fact that WMU was not targeting one person, but rather was looking at a host of candidates.
"There are schools that just go out and target one person," Beauregard said. "I think to me it was more than that. We felt that we had some great candidates out there. We studied who we had at WMU in the past and we really wanted to look at a diversified group of individuals. We also ran into some situations where teams were still playing. I don't feel that it took too long. I feel it had to be right."
As for Fleck, Beauregard says that he was on her list all along, but that early on she didn't know that much about him beyond his playing days at Northern Illinois.
"Many phone calls that I made, his name kept surfacing, and I had several people close to me in the business that called on his behalf. That really meant a lot to me. Two of them said that if they had an opening, they would have hired him?tomorrow," she said.
As Beauregard recalls it, the first meeting with Fleck was, well, a bit unorthodox.
"I happened to be in Orlando on some other business, and said 'Tampa is only an hour away, while I'm here, why don't I just out of the blue see if he is available and go over and meet him.' So I called Coach Schiano to make sure it was okay that we did that, and ended up going to Tampa and having dinner with Coach Fleck," she explained. "I thought it would probably be about an hour, and it ended up being two and a half hours. We had a great connection, and he had a true interest in our job."
Now, with Fleck about a month into the job, there is at least some evaluation to be done. Much of that centers around National Signing Day, a day that has become practically a holiday around the country for the growing segment of the college sports fans that actively follow recruiting.
Beauregard says that she knew all along recruiting was a major factor in hiring a new coach, and she feels Fleck is exactly the type of coach to bring in great classes at WMU.
"I believe that recruiting will be a great advantage here. Considering he absolutely knew the Mid-American Conference, the class that he was involved with when he worked with Coach Kill, were those seniors who played in the Orange Bowl. He had them winning at Northern Illinois we he was the recruiting coordinator there," she said.
Fleck has already brought much of that recruiting acumen to Western Michigan even in his first month on the job. In that short time, four Rivals.com three-star prospects have committed to WMU, shooting the Broncos up to fourth in the Rivals Mid-American Conference recruiting rankings.
This is not lost on Beauregard, who says that Fleck has done an "incredible job".
"I'm excited to see his first recruiting class. I have been involved with the recruiting weekends when they are on campus," she said. "Us being able to turn the corner, and to win a West Division title and also a championship, a lot of that is recruit, recruit, recruit."
Bronco fans will find out the end result of the class of 2013 tomorrow, as BroncoBlitz.com will have wall-to-wall National Signing Day coverage all day long.
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