Walkin’ in a Willie Wonderland

Houston is finally hiring Willie Fritz.

I use the term finally because his name has come up every time UH had an opening in the last 12 years, which sadly has been way too often. Fritz was mentioned after Kevin Sumlin left, after Tony Levine was relieved of his duties, and after Tom Herman bolted. Since Holgorsen was fired, Fritz has been near the top of the list as a prime target.

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In many ways, he is the ideal candidate to lead UH. He is a leader, a winner, and a program builder and has achieved at every coaching stop. Earlier in the week, the GoCoogs.com podcast Talkin’ Bout Them Cougars discussed the attributes we wanted to see in a coach, and Willie fits them all.

Willie’s career progression speaks for itself.

Fritz turned a virtually dead program at Blinn Junior College into a two-time national champion, went 97-47 at Division 2 Central Missouri (and took them to their first-ever playoff appearance). He then moved up to FCS, inheriting a Sam Houston State program that went 25-28 in the previous five years. In four seasons in Huntsville, he went to back-to-back FCS National Title games and 40 games in four years.

He took over Georgia State in their first year in FBS in 2014, leading them to a 9-3 record. He went 8-4 in his second year and led the Eagles to their first-ever bowl game (they were ineligible in 2014).

Tulane went after him and brought Willie to Uptown New Orleans. Before his arrival, the Green Wave had three winning seasons and two bowl wins this century. The rebuild took a few years, and he went 4-8 that first season. It was the first time Willie had ever won fewer than five games. In his third season, Tulane went 7-6 and won their first bowl game since 2002. He followed that up with another bowl game appearance the following year.

2021 was a disaster. Literally. Tulane was displaced after Hurricane Ida, forcing them to move a home game against OU to Norman. The team relocated to Birmingham for a month and played a home game there. The season never got on track, and they finished 2-10. But that’s when the fun started.

In 2022, Willie worked his magic and pushed Tulane to 12-2, winning the AAC and beating USC in a memorable Cotton Bowl. Fritz used a third-string QB, Kai Horton from Corsicana, to beat UH at TDECU.

Fritz and Co. followed that up with another great season this year, going 11-1 before losing to SMU in the AAC title game yesterday.

Not only does Willie Fritz build programs and win big, but he also pulls programs out of the mud to do it. He hasn’t just done it once; he has done it multiple times. He hasn’t walked into any easy jobs, and the UH job today is no different.

This program is in dire need of a hard reset and needs a strong leader to build a lasting foundation. The job is perfect for Willie Fritz. Houston offers him the facilities and a recent history of winning that none of his other stops have offered.

He is an ideal candidate in another, more subtle way. His rise through the college football world mirrors what this university was built on. Hard-working, earning everything you get, and seizing every opportunity to succeed. UH and Willie Fritz have often been overlooked and undervalued, but that never stopped either from achieving.

The University of Houston’s motto is “In Tempore” (In Time). For Willie Fritz, that time is now.