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Fritz out, SHSU quickly searching for replacement

Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 00:01

Fritz

Alex Broussard | The Houstonian

In his last season as head coach for Sam Houston State football, Willie Fritz earned the Bearkats its third straight Football Collegiate Series playoff berth with a 9-5 record. In his time at SHSU, Fritz turned around SHSU football by making the team a threat in the FCS.

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Former Sam Houston State University head football coach Willie Fritz accepted the head coaching position at Georgia Southern University Friday, leaving SHSU to search for their 15th head football coach in the school’s history.

The problem for SHSU – it is four weeks before National Signing Day.

SHSU is scurrying to fill in the hole at the head coaching position. Currently, the Bearkats only have four commits: quarterback Cole Martin from Cypress Ranch, cornerback DraShane Glass from Garland and two others.

“Our search criteria will involve national playoff and championship experience with preferred heading coaching experience,” SHSU athletic director Bobby William said.

Williams said before Fritz made the commitment to Georgia Southern, the two were working on a strategy to fill the head coach position in case Fritz departed.

“We were able to implement it as soon as he called me with his decision Thursday,” Williams said.

Rumors swept across social media last week surrounding Fritz’s expectance to accept the offer from Georgia Southern and make the jump to the Football Bowl Series. Georgia Southern fans quickly began welcoming their new head coach while Bearkat fans posted gratitude and disappointment towards the soon-to-be Eagle coach.

Fritz was welcomed with open arms at Georgia Southern’s official press conference by university president Brooks Keel and athletic director Tom KleinleinKleinlein spoke about the direction he envisioned the football team to carry over from their Football Championship Subdivision success into FBS, and how Fritz is going to head the charge.

“[Fritz] will take our program into the future and keep our historic past,” Keel said.

Fritz spoke of Georgia Southern’s impressive winning record during their tenure as an FCS program. Yet, the records and traditions wasn’t the determining factor, Fritz said, it was “for the people…we feel home here already.”

Fritz said he plans to continue the triple-option offensive strategy that dominated the FCS during the Bearkats’ consecutive trips to the FCS National Championships in 2011 and 2012.

“We intend to hit the ground running,” Fritz said. “We're going to run the football and we're going to run it effectively. Our goal is to win every game next year.”

Other coaches from Fritz’s staff have been rumored to depart as well. Backup quarterback Jared Johnson tweeted Tuesday that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Ruse would be departing.

When responding to a follower, Johnson said wide receivers coach Matt Barrett and cornerbacks coach Michael Mutz would be leaving the program as well.

Fritz finished his final season as the Bearkat head coach with a 9-5 record, his worst record at SHSU next to his first season at the school. The absence of senior Bearkats Timothy Flanders, Brian Bell and Tanner Brock didn’t make things easier for Fritz heading into the 2014 season until he accepted the job at Georgia Southern.

“This is my fourth head coaching job," Fritz said. "At the other three schools, the common denominator was the programs were on a downward spiral. That isn't the case here."

Fritz led the Bearkats to a 40-15 record during his time at SHSU, including three FCS playoff appearances, two Southland Conference titles and back-to-back National Championship appearances.

Although Fritz won’t be calling the plays at Bowers Stadium anymore, he did thank Bearkat fans during an interview with KSAM for his time at SHSU, and changing the culture of Bearkat football.

“And for one last time, eat ‘em up ‘Kats,” he said.

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