‘Group of Five’ countdown, No. 2: Willie Fritz, Tulane
No. 2 — Willie Fritz, Tulane
Record at school: 9-15
Overall record: 163-84
Impressive win: vs. Army, 21-17, Sept. 23, 2017
Why he’s on the list: A Johnson County native who played defensive back at Pittsburg State, Fritz
has developed recruiting contacts in Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Louisiana during his head coaching career that started in junior college, advanced to NCAA Division II, then FCS, now FBS.
Fritz has a history of inheriting programs with losing records and quickly turning them into winners.
In three seasons before Fritz took the job, Blinn Junior College in Texas went 5-24-1. In four seasons with Fritz as head coach, Blinn went 39-5-1 and won two national titles.
That earned him a shot at Central Missouri of the Division II MIAA. Fritz spent 13 seasons there and left with the best winning percentage in school history (.674), better even than Phog Allen, who posted a .625 winning percentage from 1912 through 1917 as the Mules’ football coach. Current coach Jim Svoboda, who took over for Fritz, takes a .699 winning percentage into this coming season, pushing Fritz into second.
Fritz spent four seasons (2011-13) at Sam Houston State, an FCS program, and coached the Bearkats into the national-title game in his second and third seasons in Huntsville, Texas, losing both games to North Dakota State, then coached by Craig Bohl.
Next stop for Fritz, Georgia Southern, where he took over for Jeff Monken (.704 winning percentage in four seasons) and maintained his level of success in two seasons (.708).
Tulane, reeling from one winning season in the past 13, was impressed and hired Fritz to bring his winning ways to New Orleans.
Tulane went 4-8 in his first season and 5-7 in his second, a disputed call in the season finale costing the Green Wave a spot in a bowl game.
Fritz prefers a run-heavy option offense. In his eight years as a Division I head coach (four FCS, four FBS), Frtiz’s teams ran the ball on 72 percent of plays from scrimmage and passed on 28 percent.
His history of turning around programs suggests he knows how to find sleepers on the recruiting trail by evaluating well, developing talent relentlessly in practice, scheming well from week-to-week and managing games well. Those skills translate well to every level.
Fritz received a contract extension through 2023, seems happy at Tulane and isn’t looking to move on, but if he can squeeze a winning season out of the Green Wave, look for coach-shopping FBS programs to try to steal him.