Fleck reflects on recruiting mistake at WMU, vows better job vetting players

After a long and messy sexual assault investigation involving several Gopher football players, their new coach promises he will be screening recruits carefully.

P.J. Fleck said he learned a valuable lesson at Western Michigan University when two of his freshmen got into trouble late last summer. 

University of Minnesota officials were aware of the incident when they hired Fleck.

In August, Bryson White and Ron George allegedly broke into a woman's apartment in Kalamazoo looking for money and drugs, while threatening to kill and sexually assault her.

"He was like take off your shirt before I blow your brains out is what he said," the woman told the local Fox affiliate. "I had a gun to my head. I got told eight times he was going to kill me. I potentially almost got raped."

The players were charged with first degree home invasion. Within hours Fleck had kicked the freshman off the team and took full responsibility at a press conference.

"What happened this weekend is one hundred percent my responsibility as a head football coach. I’m the one who gives out scholarships, I’m the one who approves scholarships, so that all falls on me," Fleck said.

But, there was more. White had an extensive juvenile record in Mason, Ohio. On four occasions, he was accused of sexual assault, and yet each time the case was dropped.
At Fleck's press conference on Friday in Minnesota, he once again owned it. 

"I allowed that kid on the program, he was a walk on late, I learned a lot to not take a walk on that late," Fleck told the media.

Fleck said White's high school in Ohio gave them reassurances about his character and pointed out the NCAA forbids criminal background checks on recruits. But, he said he would also do more in the future.

"I'm a dad and a father and I have zero tolerance for that behavior," Fleck said. 

Athletics Director Mark Coyle asked Fleck about the incident during his five-hour interview. Fleck explained he would do a better job vetting in the future with recruits and admitted he made mistakes. He said it is not the fact that you make mistakes, it's what you do to make sure you never make them again.