Minnesota coach knows football teams could learn a winning culture from Chick-Fil-A

Please indulge me a mild rant and a bold prediction. Minnesota will win the Big Ten title this year.

The Golden Gophers haven’t done that in 55 years, but coach P.J. Fleck went to Atlanta during the off-season to study the inner workings of a championship organization.

Hint: Eat Mor Chikin’.

“We’re not going to say we have similar cultures, but we both believe in culture,” Fleck said of Chick-Fil-A. “We both believe in people. And we both believe the people make the product better.”

I’m not an expert on much of anything, as my 9-3 prediction for Florida last year proved. I have eaten about 2.3 million fast-food meals, however, and have learned what to expect at certain establishments.

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Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck talks to reporters at the Big Ten Conference media days,  July 26, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck talks to reporters at the Big Ten Conference media days, July 26, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Case in point: While on vacation last week in St. Augustine, I ordered four medium drinks at the drive-thru of a certain chain. I don’t want to name names, but its mascot is a clown whose name rhymes with Donald McRonald.

There were two cars ahead of me. After about a 10-minute wait, I got to the pickup window. Nobody was there. A gruff employee eventually showed up. She tried to hand me a bag that contained about six Big Macs and 10 orders of fries. I somehow resisted the urge to accept it and drive away.

The next day, I pulled into a Chick-Fil-A for lunch. The parking lot was hotter than a grease fryer. There were approximately 492 cars in line ahead of me.

We were out of there in eight minutes with our precise order.

“Have a blessed day,” the delivery kid said.

I know you don’t come here for restaurant reviews, but Fleck is right. Culture matters. And if your favorite team is half as well-run as Chick-Fil-A, you’re going to win a lot of games.

If it’s like some other fast-food places, fill up with patience before entering the drive-thru. You’re in for a long wait. ...

Kudos to Charles Barkley and Ric Flair

Stud of the Week: Charles Barkley, for declining overtures to become an announcer on the LIV Golf tour and sticking with TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” And — unlike most of the golfers who’ve jumped on the Saudi-backed golf train — being honest enough to admit his LIV motivation.

“Of course, it’s about the money,” Sir Charles said.

Stud II: Ric Flair. After an 11-year hiatus (probably waiting in a McDonald's drive-thru), the 73-year-old Nature Boy won his final match. At that age, the only career move left is to run for president.

Duds of the Week: Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett, the tag team that lost to a 73-year-old opponent. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was planned.

Kerfuffle of the Week: Arizona retracted an “independent study” clause in Kyler Murray’s new $230 million contract, requiring him to spend hours a week at home boning up on film or the playbook.

“I refuse to let my work ethic, my preparing, to be in question,” Murray said.

Then why’d you sign the contract in the first place? ... In related news, the Bucs inserted an “independent study” clause in Tom Brady’s contract, requiring him to leave the film room and spend at least four hours a week at home refamiliarizing himself with his wife and kids. ...

No one will come close to Bill Russell and championships

A moment of silence, please, for Celtics legend Bill Russell. When it comes to championships, no one will ever come close to engineering another eight-peat. ...

At SEC Media Days, one of the 181 voters picked Vanderbilt to finish first in the SEC East. Prediction: Minnesota will win the SEC East before Vandy does. ...

Gators football recruiting gets a boost over the weekend

After receiving four more commitments over the weekend, Florida’s 2023 recruiting class is approaching top-10 status. That should pacify the loons who were ready to fire Billy Napier for not immediately signing Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Donald.

The most entertaining commitment came from Orlando receiver Aidan Mizell, who announced his choice by carrying a couple of baby alligators out from behind a curtain. A few years back, a Georgia recruit did that with a bulldog.

I won’t be truly impressed until a FAMU recruit brings a rattlesnake onstage. Or better yet, a Campbell College recruit shows up with a Fighting Camel ...

Independent Study, Part II: New Orleans put a clause in Zion Williamson’s new $193-million contract, requiring him to weigh less than a Toyota Prius. He will be required to go at least four hours a week without eating a beignet. ...

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who makes $17.5 million a year, when asked about minor league salaries: “I kind of reject the premise of the question that minor-league players are not paid a living wage.”

Triple-A players make $700 a week. Rookie leaguers make $400 a week. Mike Trout makes about $220,000 per game. ...

Prediction II: If Barkley reconsiders his LIV option, he’ll win as many majors as everyone else who’s signed on with that tour.

Best NIL Partnership: Nebraska freshman receiver Decoldest Crawford got a deal with Omaha’s SOS Heating & Cooling. That’s nice, though he probably wishes his parents had named him DeLamborghini.

Murray Redux: Oakland took him No. 9 in the 2018 MLB draft. The A’s entire active payroll is currently $41.7 million. With his new deal, Murray will average $46.5 million a year by himself. And he won’t have to do any homework. ...

Given the options, if Ric Flair ran for president in 2024, I might vote for him. ...

Recruiting update: Billy Napier ordered a linebacker and a center at McDonald’s. He got a cornerback with cheese and a safety without the bun.

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. Despite what you may think, it was not sponsored by Chick-Fil-A. But if you run into a minor leaguer having to work part-time at a fast-food joint, please tell him to have a blessed day.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Chick-Fil-A can be example of success even for a college football team