It’s so strange to say this, but UH got it right. They just got it right.
Willie Fritz is the program builder we’ve discussed on GoCoogs, on our podcasts, on other people’s podcasts, and everywhere for months. We wrote about him being the obvious target last week but did not want to go too far just in case UH was going to do something dumb.
But they didn’t. Pez, Dr. Khator, and Tilman Fertitta (Or, Chairman, as Renu loves calling him) had a plan, understood what UH needed, understood that they could not get this wrong, and delivered.
Rice is next for #3/#2 UH Basketball, but the Jackson State hoops game is vital for your football team. Fritz and Co will have a massive recruiting weekend, bringing those guys to the Jackson State game. Many people wonder how I can be part of the solution. How can I help if I don’t have big money?
Being at the Jackson State game for tipoff and being loud. That’s how you can help.
After the press conference in the media breakout session, Willie casually looked at me and started talking about how he was very close to Joe Curl. It was spooky. As many longtime readers know, I was close with former UH women’s basketball coach Joe Curl. The fact that he randomly looked at me when he started talking about it caught me off-guard. It was a coincidence but a really nice one.
Joe and I built a relationship from the day he got here, and I built relationships with a number of people on his staff. I started a website focused on Lady Coogs basketball and traveled the country with Chandi, Nicole, Shondra, Sancho, and the rest.
Joe was always willing to go the extra mile at UH, even more so if it helped his program. Willie i the same way. He was the strength coach at various points in his career, maintained his fields, and served as the academic counselor. He did it all – he brings a blue-collar work ethic to a school that began as a place for blue-collar folks. UH fans will love that part of Willie.
Adam Cole from the Opelika-Auburn News, Dylan Sinn from the Journal Gazette in Indiana, and Jeff Neiburg from the Philly Inquirer all had UH Basketball at #1 in the AP Poll. I didn’t think anyone would do that this week, honestly.
Jon Wilner from the San Jose Mercury News and Seth Davis from CBS/SI/KarensAnonymous had UH at six, and both will be removed from society and forced into a North Korean re-education camp.
NIL is going to be very important to Willie and his staff. He understands how NIL needs to be a part of a big-time football program. To this point, UH Football has shied away from NIL, but it appears Willie will lean into it. That’s excellent news – soon, fans will be asked to lean into NIL, too.
UH’s NIL needs big businesses, but smaller businesses and fans are vital, too. In the past, UH Athletics has gone to the same few sources for money, but on NIL, everyone needs to be a part of it to build a championship program.
You’ll continue to see football players go into the portal from UH. To date, Dalton Carnes and Reuben Unije are the starters that have entered. I suspect there will be more prominent names, including other starters.
Willie Fritz and Co. have been making offers to many offensive linemen, defensive backs, and linebackers, knowing they need help in those areas over the next couple of years.
Recruit, Retain, Develop – the three words Willie used to describe his philosophy. How can you not be excited about that? Recruiting became an afterthought this fall. Dana has basically given up on it by October. Retain is the name of the game right now in CFB – retaining your own players. Willie was proud of the number of guys they’d been able to retain because of the culture they had built.
And develop….hoo boy. This is the area that UH has needed the most and where we’ve seen the least. If you develop okay or good players into contributors, starters, and stars, you’re doing something. Willie’s done that at every stop.
Late in the season, Dana Holgorsen kept saying that guys would only play if they earned it. How do you develop guys when that’s the way you operate? Virtually no one played on the OL unless there was an injury. Here and there, the guys on the right side would come out for a series. But it was rare. Who got in a game in a blowout at QB? Virtually never happened under Dana in five years.
I am so curious to see what happens at the QB position. Is Donovan Smith his guy? I am certain Willie will bring in more guys this year at QB. It will not be like it was for the last five years, where you’re a snap away from the season going up in flames. But more than that, I want to see how the quarterbacks develop over the course of a season and then from year to year.
Willie said he would be involved in every aspect of the program, a very hands-on approach. Quite different than the “CEO” way Dana tried to go with it.
I think we’re done with the throw-the-players-under-the-bus way of living, too.
It’s just an entirely new day.
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