Gophers football: PJ Fleck accuses Wisconsin of passive recruiting. Luke Fickel replies

The rivalry for Paul Bunyan’s ax was played and won by a gopher in November, but that rivalry was brought up on Wednesday.

One of the Gophers’ football commitments, former Prior Lake defensive lineman Martin Owusu, received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin before the early signing period opened this week. The Badgers tried to overturn a pledge late in the recruiting cycle that was only the start, according to head coach B.J. Flick.

“(Usu) showed me all the text messages on them and they do everything they can to passive recruit, passive recruit, passive recruit our heart, and it just didn’t work,” Flick said during his signing day press conference on Wednesday. So, we canceled it.

“…that’s what’s great; you’ll be able to see all the text messages.” Follow Flick. “That’s the best part of passive hiring. You can see all these negative guys recruiting in the text messages. It’s beautiful. We appreciate everyone who shares these things with us because we’re not passive recruiting, and it’s really interesting to see that.”

Owusu tweeted about the Badgers scholarship offer on Tuesday, but then deleted it. I follow that up with an explanatory tweet. “Not sorry about that,” Oso wrote. “…I’m a gopher no matter what.”

Owusu, a three-star candidate, signed a National Letter of Intent Wednesday as one of 21 high school freshmen in the 2023 Gophers recruiting class. Listed at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, he has had 30 scholarship offers, including Kansas State Iowa, Washington State, Washington State, and California.

New Badger head coach Luke Fickel responded to Flick’s accusations on Wednesday. “I’m not going to passively recruit,” the former Cincinnati coach said in a video posted by 247 Sports. “I’m not saying someone didn’t call. I know we might have reached out to someone. But I don’t think we would have said anything negative about a guy going anywhere. We have a lot of positives to say about what we do.”

When recruiting, the Gophers will use other schools as a point of comparison, but won’t call out their opposition directly, sources tell Pioneer Press. One example is pitting the Twin Cities metro area against a small college-centered city.

During his KFXN-FM show on Wednesday, Flake said, of course, negative hire has always been around.

“But I think kids are more willing to share it than they used to be able to,” Flick said. “…we choose not to do it. All of our employees don’t do it, they don’t talk about it. If (the athletes) want to go somewhere else, let them go somewhere else.”

Brown Stephens is absent

Gophers wide receiver Michael Brown Stephens has been away from the team during preparations for the Dec. 29 Pinstripe Bowl, a source told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday, dealing with a personal situation.

Third year player has 22 receptions for 338 yards and no touchdowns in 2022.


Flick said that the Gophers plan to add cornerbacks and possibly defensive and offensive linemen before the start of next season. … Thirteen members of the Gophers’ upcoming recruiting class—nearly 40 percent—will sign up in January, including Owusu, Greg Johnson, Darius Taylor, Drew Vioto, Rhys Tripp, Garrison Monroe, Kerry Brown, Kenrick Lanier, and transfers Ryan Selig, Chris Collins, Corey Krums, and Elijah Spencer and Jack Henderson.

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