HOUSTON – Willie Fritz, the back-to-back American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year who boasts 31 years of collegiate head coaching experience, has been named the 16th head coach in University of Houston football history, Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman announced Sunday.
Cougar fans and supporters are invited to attend Fritz's introductory press conference and welcome party at Noon, Monday, inside the TDECU Stadium Cougar Club. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m.
"No one in the country has been better at leading and developing student-athletes than Willie Fritz," Pezman said. "Over his more than three-decades of head coaching experience, he has guided several football programs to historic success. We're excited to welcome Willie, his wife, Susan, and their entire family, to Cougar Nation and look forward to putting our full support behind Coach Fritz as we look to take the next steps in the Big 12 Conference."
Fritz, who ranks fifth nationally among active FBS head coaches with 208 victories, led Tulane to consecutive American Athletic Conference Championship games. The Green Wave's 23 wins since the start of the 2022 season rank fourth nationally while the program's 15 conference wins are fifth in the country in that timeframe.
"I am truly humbled and honored to join the University of Houston family and to be a part of the strong athletics tradition at UH," said Fritz. "There is no ceiling for success, with the incredible fan support, excellent facilities, talented young men and a collective desire to compete for championships. We will build a program that all Coogs can be proud of and I cannot wait to see the results."
The Shawnee Mission, Kan., native owns eight career 10-plus win seasons and seven conference championships, including the 2022 American Athletic Conference title. The 2023 Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award Watch List honoree is 247-121-1 all-time as a head coach dating to his 1993 beginnings at Blinn College.
"We are thrilled to welcome Coach Fritz to the University of Houston and we look forward to him elevating our football program to new heights in the Big 12 Conference," UH President Renu Khator said. "Coach Fritz has an impressive track record both on and off the field of maximizing the potential of student-athletes, which is a testament to his leadership. We're excited to have him as part of our Cougar Family and look forward to more exciting moments next fall at TDECU Stadium."
Fritz's Tulane team spent 19 weeks ranked inside the AP Top 25 in 2022-23, including topping out at #9 following a thrilling 46-45 Cotton Bowl victory against #8 USC on Jan. 10, 2023.
Fritz has spent each of the last 31 seasons as a head coach, at Blinn College (1993-96), Central Missouri (2007-09), Sam Houston (2010-13), Georgia Southern (2014-15) and Tulane (2016-23). During that stretch, he has coached 54 players who were either NFL Draft selections or NFL free-agent signees.
Fritz was twice named the National Coach of the Year, including the American Football Coaches Association FCS Coach of the Year in 2011 and the Liberty Mutual FCS Coach of the Year in 2012. In his two seasons at Georgia Southern, he led the Eagles to a combined record of 17-7, a 2014 Sun Belt Conference title and the school's first NCAA postseason bowl game with a berth in the 2015 GoDaddy.com Bowl.
"From the outset of our search, Coach Willie Fritz stood out for his track record of championship-level success across all levels of collegiate football," UH System Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta said. "His achievements and reputation stand toe-to-toe with the best and brightest in the game. Our mission is to be a leader in the Big 12 Conference and provide our fans and donors a product they can be proud of. We're excited to welcome Coach Fritz and his family to Houston and look forward to bright days together for Houston Football."
Fritz served as head coach at Sam Houston from 2010-13, leading the Bearkats to back-to-back Southland Conference titles, NCAA Division I Championship game appearances in 2011 and 2012 and a third straight NCAA playoff berth in 2013. In 2011 and 2012, Sam Houston posted the two highest single-season win totals in program history with marks of 14-1 (2011) and 11-4 (2012) while more than 50 Bearkats student-athletes earned All-Southland Conference honors.
Fritz revitalized Central Missouri and guided the Mules to 11 winning seasons in 13 years. The NCAA Division II program's ledger included two 10-win seasons with the 2001 Mule squad earning its first postseason trip in more than 30 years. A 97-47 mark in 13 seasons ranked Fritz as the winningest coach in the program's history. He was the only coach to ever win seven or more games in eight consecutive seasons, and his victory total ranked him 15th among active Division II coaches at the time.
Fritz played on two conference title teams and was a four-year starter at defensive back at Pittsburg State where he earned a Bachelor's degree in 1983. While working as a graduate assistant during his first stint with Sam Houston from 1984-85, he earned his Masters of Kinesiology in 1986.
Fritz and his wife Susan have a son, Wesley, and two daughters, Lainie and Brooke.
For those attending the Monday introductory event, complimentary parking will be available in Lot 12A, and beverages will be available for purchase at the event. Attendees should access TDECU Stadium through the Beth and Dan Bellow Club Entrance and follow signage to the Cougar Club.
Do not miss out on the excitement of the Fritz Era and the Cougars' second season in the Big 12 Conference. Season tickets are now on sale and begin as low as $99. Fans can purchase tickets over the phone beginning at 9 a.m., Monday, by calling the Houston Athletics Ticket Office at 713-GO-COOGS (462-6647). Houston, which hosts UNLV in its season opener Saturday, Aug. 31, will welcome Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State and Utah to TDECU Stadium as part of 2024 league play.
Fans can make a direct impact on the success of Houston Football by purchasing season tickets, supporting LinkingCoogs – UH's very own NIL collective, giving to Houston Rise, and by joining 46ers and The Huddle which provides financial support directly to Houston Football for needs beyond its operating budget.