INDIANAPOLIS — P.J. Fleck said at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, July 22, that the Gophers football team has a “significant number of vaccinations.”
That majority is “not 100 percent yet,” Fleck said. It does include Fleck, he confirmed, but he wasn’t willing to share the exact percentage of players and staff protected against COVID-19.
“I’m incredibly pleased,” Fleck said inside Lucas Oil Stadium. “This team loves each other. This isn’t about if you get the vaccination, you love the team; if you don’t, you’re not. They have a choice on whether they get it or not. But this team is so close and we were one of those teams (whose game) was canceled last year.”
The Gophers had two games canceled, against Wisconsin and Northwestern, due to a COVID-19 breakout in late November and early December in the 2020 season. They had multiple games with more than 20 players out, including 33 out during the 24-17 victory over Nebraska on Dec. 12. They made up the Badgers game at a later date that originally was going to be a crossover game against a Big Ten East division opponent.
“They knew what that was like,” Fleck said of games called off. “They don’t want to go through that again. They listened to their doctors and medical staff. I don’t know anything about it. You have to listen to the medical teams. For me, it’s refreshing to know that they love each other and are taking care of each other. They are together and the significant number impresses me with where we are at, and (I) feel really good about where we are headed, too.”
Minnesota’s vaccination rate of people with at least one dose is at 68 percent, according to the Department of Heath on Thursday.
Minnesota running back Mo Ibrahim was announced Thursday as a member of Team IFA for branding and marketing opportunities during the name, image and likeness era.
“Mo Money joined the family,” the agency said. “Time to hit the ground running #TeamIFA.”
The Minneapolis-based agency has a few recent Gophers players under its roof, including Rashod Bateman, Tyler Johnson and Blake Cashman.
Ibrahim was one of five players named to the Big Ten West honor roll Thursday.
The U was shut out of this distinction from 2011-19 but had two included last season, Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman.
The U also had three other nominees for 2021 in Morgan, receiver Chris Autman-Bell and defensive end Boye Mafe.
Fleck received one third-place vote for the conference’s top coach, according to the cleveland.com poll. Ohio State’s Ryan Day came in first with 74 points and 16 first-place votes; Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald had 72 points and 17 first-place votes, and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz had 16 points and one first-place vote.
Fleck opened his 15-minute media session at the podium with a shoutout to his family. “One of (my young kids) actually asked me when my baseball season started,” he said. “And dad, ‘Did you play football?’ ”
Fleck, who was a receiver at Northern Illinois and played briefly for the San Francisco 49ers, added: “That’s always humbling to know, when your kids tell you things like that.”
Fleck said former U placeholder Casey O’Brien of Cretin-Derham Hall has had another clean cancer screening this week. … Retiring Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez will become the Big Ten’s special advisor for football. He will help out on the potential expansion of the College Football Playoff and other items. … Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said the league plans to hire a chief medical officer before this fall. … The U football team boasts a record-high 3.33 grade-point average.