An open letter to Willie Fritz

Will Cheney

I’ll be honest. When my editor blew my phone up on Christmas Eve about Jeff Monken leaving for the U.S. Military Academy, I thought we were doomed. Man, I could not have been more wrong.

Shortly after that time, TK and the panel had been interviewing possible candidates for the head coaching position at Georgia Southern. There were rumors of candidates from a slew of FBS programs. In January, during a George-Anne staff meeting, news broke that a new coach had been hired: Willie Fritz from Sam Houston State.

My first thought was, “Damn. All those candidates that were interviewed from established FBS programs, and we hired this guy?”

At that point, all I knew about Fritz was that his Bearkats appeared in two of the previous three FCS title games and his offensive system put up gaudy numbers the past couple of seasons. Under most circumstances, that would probably be enough to jump on the bandwagon, but not for me.

Then there was the press conference in Gene Bishop. The first time I heard Fritz speak, I thought, “Man, this guy is way too nice. This fanbase may just eat him alive.”

You see, Georgia Southern isn’t like most smaller programs. We may not have the 100,000 seat stadium, but the love and support the fans and alumni have for their team could fill the Grand Canyon. These fans and alumni will not settle for a coach who doesn’t appreciate the traditions of this program, including the tradition of winning. Just ask Brian VanGorder.

What I discovered about Fritz shortly after was that he has the unique ability to turn his game face on and off. When you’re around him at a media event or with fans, he is one of the most pleasant individuals to be around. He has really become a great face for the program and university. But between the lines, he shows intensity that Steve Spurrier would envy, and it works.

What I saw on Saturday while sitting in the nosebleeds of Bobby Dodd Stadium washed away any and all doubt in my mind of who should be the head football coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles. To be down 35-10 at the half to a Paul Johnson Georgia Tech team and not roll over is nothing short of miraculous. In my time here, I’ve never seen a team make halftime adjustments, on both sides of the ball, of that magnitude. I don’t know what you said to them in the locker room at halftime, but it was the right prescription. Throw in the season opener in Raleigh, and this team has proved they are as good as, or better than, two established ACC programs. These Eagles could easily be 3-0.

My apologies, coach. I must say I was too quick to pass judgment and you are indeed the right man for the job. And from what I’ve seen so far, the Sun Belt is in for a real surprise when conference play begins. Because of your leadership, Georgia Southern has hit the ground running (and passing) in the FBS.

I’d go to war with you any day.


Will Cheney

Sports Editor