5 factors to keep in mind for the Western Michigan coaching search

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday January 08, 2017

It looked like Western Michigan would have P.J. Fleck for another year, but Minnesota’s late change led to the Gophers grabbing him, and WMU needs a new coach.

The Broncos are coming off a 13-0 regular season and Cotton Bowl appearance, so it’s an appealing job, but it’s also late in the carousel. As the process plays out, keep track of updates on our WMU search page.

Here are 5 factors to keep in mind for the WMU search.

1. WMU needs to move quickly.

The recruiting dead period ends on Thursday, and Signing Day is on Feb. 1. On Friday, WMU had the No. 1 class in the MAC. After Fleck went to Minnesota, at least three recruits have already flipped to the Gophers, and the WMU class has dropped to No. 2 in the MAC. Fleck had signed some of the highest-ranked classes in MAC history — the 2017 WMU class was higher than Minnesota’s — so there is talent in this class, but the next coach needs to get in to keep it together.

2. Some coaches may not be open to leaving at this point in the year.

Staffs are preparing to hit the road recruiting for the final few weeks and then get into spring practice. This is a difficult time to leave a program. If you’re a sitting head coach, it would leave the assistants and players in a tough spot. If they hire a sitting assistant, it will be hard to put together the best possible staff.

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg listed some potential candidates, including Grand Valley State head coach Matt Mitchell, Northwestern running backs coach Mat MacPherson, Michigan State offensive line coach Mark Staten and Western Michigan special teams coordinator Rob Wenger.

3. Athletic director Kathy Beauregard could hire another wildcard.

Fleck was a nobody when he got the job. A 32-year-old NFL assistant with no coordinating experience replaced one of the most successful coaches in school history in Bill Cubit. Fleck went 1-11 in year one, but turned it around. Beauregard went out on a limb and it paid off. She could do it again.

“We took a risk, people knew we took a risk,” Beauregard said Friday. “It was either going to be a high risk and high reward, or after the first or second year, you might not see me sitting here. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. We’re a different program now.”

4. WMU could pay more than anyone else in the MAC.

Fleck’s $800,000 salary was by far the highest in the MAC, and the school was willing to greatly increase it through new money from donors. It was reported that could get up to $2 million. Some Power 5 assistants who might not normally look at a MAC job could get a look from WMU.

5. The program has a lot to offer.

Aside from the salary, the facilities are pretty good for a MAC school, including an indoor practice field. It’s also a talented roster. With those classes Fleck brought in, there is depth. The team loses QB Zach Terrell and NFL-quality wide receiver Corey Davis, but there were only nine seniors in the two-deep. Fleck also showed it’s a program that can break through to that New Year’s Six berth, so there’s a cache now.

Stay tuned to the Coaching Search Ticker for the latest news.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.