PJ Fleck's infamous Row the Boat philosophy is something very personal to him that was born out of tragedy. Back in February of 2011, Fleck lost his newborn son to a heart condition. After much reflection, the Row the Boat mantra was created as his personal method to get through the most adverse time in his life, and it has grown into a signature staple of his programs at both Minnesota and Western Michigan.
At Western Michigan, folks chuckled at Row the Boat as the Broncos struggled to a 1-11 finish in the first season under the youngest head coach in college football. However his high-energy approach to recruiting and development quickly started to pay off, as the Broncos went 8-5 in years two and three before a jump to 13-1 and a Cotton Bowl appearance in his final year in Kalamazoo.
When Fleck took the job at Minnesota prior to the 2017 season, Western had owned the rights to the Row the Boat trademark, and Fleck and the Gophers had to buy it back. Fleck went 5-7 that first season, then 7-6, and then made a big jump to 11-2 in year three before going 3-4 in the COVID affected 2020 season.
Yesterday marked a down day for the Gophers program, as they dropped a 14-10 decision to Bowling Green, a program that has won just five games over the last two-plus seasons.
Fleck, with the loss dropping his team to 2-2 before getting back into Big Ten play, expressed his disappointment in his team's performance in his post game presser, talked about how "everything" needs to be evaluated in the Gophers passing game and wrapped it up by sharing how their current predicament they find themselves in is really what Row the Boat is really all about.
"We've got to look at this now, is we've really had four games to learn who we are. We got humbled, we gained some confidence, we have inconsistency. There are a lot of things going on, but there was a lot, and there is so much to learn from."
"Now we can go into conference play with the mentality, everything is in front of us. Everything is still there. We have a really good football team, we've got to get some guys healthy, but we have to make sure they have the mindset that everything is right in front of them, and we have to keep moving forward."
"This is what Row the Boat is all about. This is a tough storm to go through. But we're going to go through it. We're not going to go around it. We're not going to go under it. We're not going to go over it. We're going to go right through it. Because that is what we do."
Fleck and the Gophers will kick off against Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers Saturday at 12pm EST. Purdue enters the game 3-1 after a tight 13-9 win over Illinois last weekend.