After seven months on the job, new Bearkat head football coach Willie Fritz finally gets to the moment everyone in his profession loves the most.

"The day your players report for the opening of preseason camp is special," the 14th head football coach in Sam Houston history said. "It's exciting to get the new season underway. The players and the coaches alike can't wait to get started."

Approximately 90 student-athletes will report for the start of Bearkat football preseason camp Thursday morning August 5. Two-a-day practice sessions will begin on Friday with camp continuing through the day before fall semester classes begin August 25.

"During spring practice in April the team learned how I look to do things and we learned about them as well," Fritz said. "We had all positions open during the spring and some guys rose to the challenge and were impressive. Now we'll have our new freshmen and transfers in the mix as well. We can't wait to get started."

Fritz was named as Bearkat head coach last December and he and his assistants hit the ground running in the first months of 2010.

 "The reception our football staff has received across the state has been fantastic," Fritz said. "Everywhere we've been in the community, people are excited about Bearkat football. In April, we had the most successful football auction we've ever had and, this summer, season ticket sales are going well."

Even more important to the coach who owns an overall record of 220 victories and 66 losses in a 28-year career as both a head coach and an assistant is the reception the coaching staff has found in Texas high schools.

"Our staff has visited close to 700 high schools this spring and the response has been excellent," Fritz said. "All our coaches came back talking about how many Sam Houston graduates there are coaching in the high schools. A staff member had one day where he visited six high schools and three of the coaches were Bearkats."

The "winningest" coach in the University of Central Missouri's 113-year football history, Fritz rolled up a 97-47 record as the Mules' head coach from 1997 to 2009. He produced a 39-5-1 record and two national junior college championships at Blinn in 1993 to 1995.

"It's tremendous to be back in Texas and see the passion people have for football," Fritz said. "Texas high schools are our No. 1 priority, especially the Houston area. It has been big for our new coaches to get out to their new recruiting areas and establish relationships."

Fritz is no stranger to Sam Houston State. He served as a graduate assistant for Kat squads that went 16-6 in both 1984 and 1985 and won the 1985 Gulf Star Conference championship. Fritz returned the secondary and special teams coach for the Bearkats in 1991 and 1992.

As special teams coach during the 1991 Southland championship season, Fritz started a special teams tradition called the "Block Party" that continues today. The Kats have blocked 90 kicks in the past 19 seasons including 64 punt blocks, 18 field goals and eight point after attempts.

The new coach faces a special challenge his first season in 2010. Never in Sam Houston's 23 years in the Southland Conference has a Bearkat team lost as many lettermen from one season to the next.

Only 28 of the 60 players who lettered on last year's 5-6 team return this fall. The previous high total of lettermen lost was 28 in 1993 when the Bearkats went 2-5 in Southland Conference action.

Fritz faces the challenge with optimism.

 "With only five scholarship seniors returning, our young players definitely are going to have plenty of opportunities to play this year," Fritz said. "That was a big selling point for us in recruiting last January and we're really excited about the young players we signed.

 "Counting red-shirts and lettermen, we return about 50 players and this spring we got to see what the guys could do. We're definitely inexperienced. But the players showed an outstanding work ethic during the spring and will continue to make progress as we move through the season."

Fritz  has put together an outstanding coaching staff that includes two former Southland Conference head coaches Scott Stoker of Northwestern State and Bob DeBessee of Texas State who will serve as defensive and offensive coordinators.

Jeff Conway came with Fritz from Central Missouri to serve as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach. Other staff members are Ben Beasley from Northwestern State (safeties), Johnny Jernigan from Murray State (defensive line), Derek Warehime from Arkansas-Monticello (offensive line) and Anthony Johnson from the University of Texas (running backs).

"I'm proud of the staff we have assembled here at Sam Houston," Fritz said. "They are excellent coaches with a lot of energy."

Fritz and his staff have definite goals for the SHSU football program both on and off the field.

"Our No. 1 goal for all of our student-athletes is to get their degree," Fritz said. "Number two, I want guys to have a passion for football. I want guys who are interested in getting stronger, quicker and faster and being the best football players that they can be and never losing sight of the fact that they want to be on a championship team.

"I also want to make sure that I lead guys in the right direction so our guys leave here a better person than when they came. Last but not least, we want to do all these things in the right way."

Sam Houston State players report for preseason camp on August 6. The Bearkats kickoff the 2010 season at Baylor on Sept. 4. The Bearkats' home opener is Sept. 25 with Gardner-Webb at Bowers Stadium.

The highlight of the 2010 season will be the 85th "Battle of the Piney Woods" showdown to be played this year at Reliant Stadium in Houston at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23.

To purchase tickets to the Battle of the Piney Woods, go directly to the ticket page and get your seats reserved today.

For information on football tickets to home games in Huntsville at Bowers Stadium, go to the football ticket link on or visit the Sam Houston Athletic Ticket Office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone of Bowers Stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1729.