Willie Fritz is new head football coach

Photo: Heather Yeomans

Will Cheney

Georgia Southern University Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein has found the new face of GSU’s football team in Willie Fritz.

After an offseason of coaching changes that began with former head coach Jeff Monken announcing on Dec. 24 that he would be leaving Statesboro and taking his coaching talents to the United States Military Academy at West Point (Army), Kleinlein declared a national search to find the Eagles new coach.

Among the rumors of Vanderbilt University’s Brent Pry, Navy’s Ivin Jasper and the University of Georgia’s Mike Bobo it was Fritz that won the job.

Earlier this week Kleinlein stated that an announcement in regards to the coaching vacancy would be made later that week.

Fritz has been the headman at Sam Houston State University for the past four seasons compiling a record of 40-15 that included taking the Bearkats to back-to-back FCS National Championships in 2011 and 2012.

A head coaching change might not be the only thing different for the Eagles in 2014 as Fritz runs a high-powered spread offense that includes a multitude of read options. The past three seasons Fritz offense has passed for over 2000 yards, a feat that has never been done at GSU in a single season.

Experience is not a concern as Fritz has built up over two decades of it coaching various teams, accumulating 128 wins in his career.

Fritz’s hiring could prove to be beneficial in other ways as well due to his time spent coaching in the talent heavy state of Texas, he could potentially bring the recruiting ties he has to GSU.

The Eagles football program is in the midst of transition after a departure from the Southern Conference in order to move to the Sun Belt Conference next season. However, GSU might have hit a home run with this hiring as it brings a fresh look to the program as well as filling the head coach vacancy.

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Fritz introduced at Bishop

At the press conference, which was held at Gene Bishop Fieldhouse, GSU President Dr. Brooks Keel and Kleinlein announced that Fritz would be

the next head coach of the GSU football team. Kleinlein said that the new leader of the football program would have to be one that embraced tradition and had the ability put his own stamp on the program.

“We formulated a group of people we felt fit the criteria that out president had and that I had for a successful leader of our football program,” Kleinlein said. “We brought that group to campus and then we really put the scrutiny on them.”

Fritz talked about the reasons he came to GSU, including: the historical winning records, the tradition of the program, the passionate fans, the location of Statesboro and recruiting in Georgia. The most important reason, he said, was the people.

“We really felt good about the people. You can have the greatest stadium, the best facilities and location, but without the people, it really doesn’t allow you to have the success that you want,” Fritz said.

One of the traditions that weighed heavily on the recruiting process was the offense that was going to be run here at GSU; mainly if it was going to be the triple-option.

“Tracey Ham told me during the interview process, ‘coach in the press conference you only need to say two words – triple-option,’” Fritz said.

While at Sam Houston, Fritz ran a spread-option type of offense, similar to what Auburn University ran this season under head coach Gus Malzahn.

“This has been a thoroughly, thoughtful, careful, comprehensive and widespread national search in order for us to find the very best person. We sought a person who not only would take us into the future, but who will honor our past,” Keel said.