Western Michigan AD explains her plans for finding next coach

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Friday January 06, 2017

Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard took a risk in hiring P.J. Fleck four years ago, but it paid off. Now she’s looking for a new coach, coming off a Cotton Bowl appearance, following Fleck’s departure for Minnesota.

Fleck had been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wide receivers coach for one year, he didn’t have coordinator experience, and he was in his early 30s. It was a sharp difference from previous head coach Bill Cubit. But he sold her on the plan, even after a 1-11 debut season.

“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.”

Beauregard said Fleck had turned down interview offers for other jobs, she and felt WMU offered Fleck a strong raise with new money from donors — he was already the MAC's highest-paid head coach at $800,000. But she understood why Fleck left for the Big Ten.

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She knows she has to move quickly, with the dead period ending next week and Signing Day less than a month away. WMU has 24 commitments and the No. 1-ranked class in the MAC. She may look for sitting head coaches or veteran assistants, but she’s open, and she wants to know what players want. She's not yet sure the status of current WMU assistants.

Last time I went out, I looked for a head coach with a lot of experience. That’s where we were headed,” she said. “We met with some, found out about a few others, had an opportunity to meet with Coach Fleck, who didn’t have anything regarding a head coaching piece, but everything else on that student-athlete list is so important.

“If we’re not willing to listen to those student-athletes, what they’re looking for in a new leader, it’s going to be difficult to assess what is. We are a different program in a different time. I plan on listening to them as long as we want to, how they’re feeling about this, because I know it hurts, and where we’re going to go.”

Beauregard said she’s already spoken with several athletic directors about potential candidates, including close friend Jim Phillips, who is Northwestern’s AD. She may travel to Nashville early next week to speak with candidates at the AFCA Convention. The timing is difficult, but in the MAC, losing your hear coach means you did something right.

This is exactly where we wanted to be regarding having a season that may be one of the historical in Bronco history in the classroom and on the playing field,” she said.

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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.