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“Controversial” hiring of Coach Fleck led Broncos to Cotton Bowl, but will he stay?

Western Michigan finished the season with a 13-1 record while earning its first conference championship since 1988.
GS Photo | Western Michigan Athletics
Western Michigan finished the season with a 13-1 record while earning its first conference championship since 1988.

It has been a historic season for the Western Michigan football team.

After finishing with just one win after the 2013 season, the Broncos wrapped up the 2016 campaign with an undefeated regular season (13-0). The Mid-American Conference champions then earned a spot in the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked team outside of the "Power Five" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12).

The season ended on a sour note though, as the Broncos played Wisconsin tough, but ultimately fell to the Badgers, 24-16. One of the unfortunate realities of being a fan of a school like Western Michigan is that as soon as your team is good enough to earn some national attention, a bigger school swoops in and lures your coach away to greener pastures.

That's the situation Western Michigan finds itself in with head coach P.J. Fleck. The question on everyone's mind in Kalamazoo is, will he stay or will he go? 

Kathy Beauregard, the athletic director for Western Michigan, joined Stateside to look back on the magical season the Broncos had, and the challenges they have to keep rowing that boat into the future.

Beauregard  looked back at when Fleck was first hired before the 2013 season. He was a "controversial" choice, since he came to Kalamazoo without any head coaching experience. In fact, he wasn't even an offensive or defensive coordinator prior to being hired. After that first season finished 1-11, that decision got more and more controversial among the Bronco faithful. 

After a pair of 8-5 seasons and a Bahamas Bowl win, the Broncos continued their rise with a 13-1 campaign and the school's first MAC title since 1988.  

She said the success of the team has produced plenty of rumors about Coach Fleck's future that started about midway through this season. The University of Minnesota recently fired its head coach, and some media reports have said Fleck a top candidate for the job. Beauregard says the rumors are nothing new, but the negotiations on a new contract to keep Fleck in Kalamazoo have been "excellent."

Beauregard praised the team's performance, but also celebrated the national exposure that the university received from playing in a major bowl game on national television. 

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about the team's experience at the Cotton Bowl and her reaction to MLive.com's report about Michigan universities subsidizing their athletic departments.

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Josh Hakala, a lifelong Michigander (East Lansing & Edwardsburg), comes to Michigan Radio after nearly two decades of working in a variety of fields within broadcasting and digital media.
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