KU football coaching search: 3 selling points for Willie Fritz

photo by: AP Photo/John Raoux

Tulane head coach Willie Fritz watches play during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Central Florida, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

As the search for the next head football coach at the University of Kansas comes closer to a conclusion, the Lawrence Journal-World is taking a look at some of the potential candidates to lead the Jayhawks into the 2021 season.

What might make a certain contender appealing to Travis Goff, as KU’s athletic director tries to identify the right person for the job?

Here’s an overview of three selling points Willie Fritz has to offer.

Kansas roots

The Tulane head coach’s long career has taken him everywhere from Texas, to Missouri, to Georgia and to Louisiana, too. But for Fritz, the long journey actually began in Kansas.

A native of the Sunflower State, Fritz graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest High and attended college at Pittsburg State, where he played defensive back in football and point guard in basketball.

His introduction into coaching came as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State in 1982, and he spent a year as an assistant at SMNW after that. From 1987-90, Fritz was the defensive coordinator at Coffeyville Community College.

Before Fritz worked his way up the coaching ranks to the FBS level, his longest time at any of his stops came at Central Missouri, where he was the head coach from 1997-2009. That’s only about an hour and a half from KU’s campus.

Making a jump to the Power Five level at a program close to his roots would seem a logical step, and may even make the KU job more appealing to Fritz than it is to others.

Fritz made Tulane competitive

In the 116-year history of Green Wave football, more than half of the seasons have ended with Tulane posting a losing record.

During the 13 seasons leading up to Fritz’s debut year in 2016, Tulane only produced one winning season, and in 10 of those years the team won four games or fewer.

But Fritz has helped the program finish at .500 or better each of the past three years.

Fritz, who went 18-7 in two seasons at Georgia Southern before being hired at Tulane, has a record of 47-40 (.540) in 7 seasons as an FBS head coach. He has a 3-1 record in bowl games.

His teams excel in the run game

Even during Fritz’s first couple of seasons at Tulane, when the team lost more games than it won, the Green Wave still ran the ball effectively.

In each of his five seasons leading the American Athletic Conference program, Fritz’s teams have averaged at least 218 yards a game on the ground and finished the season ranked 26th or higher in rushing yards per game. During that stretch, in 2019 Tulane topped out at 243.2 yards a game via the run, which ranked 11th in the country.

For all of its struggles in recent years, the KU football program generally has found its share of useful to talented running backs. And whoever takes over this program is going to find the 2021 roster to have more depth at running back than any other position.


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