Gophers Coach P.J. Fleck on Art, Architecture and Travel

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NIL, or Name, Image and Likeness was the hot topic of the college football talking season. No surprise, it came up repeatedly at multiple media days. We asked Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck what his dream deal would have been, back during his playing days at Northern Illinois, had this existed during his time.

“I’m enamored with architecture,” the former NIU wide receiver said today during his podium session,” so the Sears Tower back then, probably something like that. I’m also a big fan of John Deere lawnmowers. So it would have been John Deere lawnmowers at Sears, believe it or not- because in DeKalb, there’s not a lot.”

(The audio discussing all this in more detail is above- it’s a great listen, as he covers his love of modern architecture, and the art that he saw in Europe)

Fleck is excited, overall about the seismic shift happening with this in college sports.

“I’m fired up about name, image, and likeness,” the Sugar Grove, IL native said.

“I think it’s tremendous. Our location, the Twin City area, the three and a half million people we have in our city, the 18 Fortune 500 companies, this isn’t a small, little college town.”

“Change is inevitable…We have businesses galore and now having the ability for our players to benefit off their name with all of these companies, that we can’t be a part of organizing that, but they have all these resources at their disposal, at their fingertips.

“Now there’s no Minnesota state law yet, so we have to be able to follow the NCAA, and obviously the University of Minnesota guidelines.”

Obviously, an earth-shattering, seismic sea change like this is going to lead to externalities, side effects and collateral damage, and P.J. Fleck articulated on that topic.

“The big thing we have to continue to do is we got to keep adding education because with the name, image, and likeness comes things like taxes, scams, agents,” he said.

(More audio about that is below- he also made a really great point about how much we’ve all changed since the pandemic began, and how we all appreciate this season more than ever, and if you don’t appreciate it more, or haven’t grown, then well, just listen)

“We have to continue to educate the student-athlete and that’s what we already have built into our program. We have had to Gopher Life program, which used to be the Bronco For Life program, for nine years now, which talks to them about finances, taxes, all the things we have done…

…I mean you don’t want a player going to jail for tax fraud, there’s a lot of things that they never had to worry about before that now they have to worry about, and there’s options as to whether you want to be a part of that or not.

“There’s a lot of responsibility to that, and this is something that’s constantly evolving and there’s a learning curve to it, and we’re all gonna learn from it.”

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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