The Bearkat head coach earned $70,000 for charities and scholarships in recognition for his commitment to excellence both on and off the field.
Liberty Mutual Insurance, in partnership with the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame, announced Fritz as the 2012 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award winner for the FCS at a luncheon Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
As coach of the year, Liberty Mutual will award Fritz $50,000 to support his favorite charities and $20,000 in scholarship to the Sam Houston State University Alumni Association.
Fritz has selected the Lone Survivor Foundation, founded by Retired Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell in 2010 to restore, empower, and renew hope for America's wounded service members and their families through health, wellness and therapeutic support; as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as his award beneficiaries.
Since 2006, Liberty Mutual Insurance has provided $1.75 million to support charities and alumni association scholarship funds on behalf of its Coach of the Year winners.
Sam Houston State's 11-4 season in 2012 that included the Bearkats' second consecutive Southland Conference football championship and appearance in the NCAA Division I Championship final and the head coach's commitment to his players and community elevated him above a group of five FCS coach finalists. Fan votes cast December 4-20 plus ballots from a committee of national media and College Football Hall of Fame players and coaches were evaluated in the selection process.
The other 2012 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year winners are Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (FBS); Peter Rossomando, New Haven (Conn.) (Division II); and Glenn Caruso, St. Thomas (Minn.) (Division III).
"We are excited to recognize Coach Fritz's role in helping his student-athletes achieve their full potential on and off the field of play," Jim MacPhee, senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer, Liberty Mutual Personal Insurance, said. "Each year, our winners are able to positively impact their schools, communities and beyond through our award, and we are excited to further support Coach Fritz's good work as a Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year."
In three years since arriving in Huntsville, Coach Willie Fritz led the Sam Houston State Bearkats to a 31-10 overall record, two Southland Conference championships, back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division I national championship game and the program's highest ever national ranking.
The 31 victories stand as the most in any three-year period in Sam Houston State's 97 seasons. Seven SHSU players were named as All-America selections in 2011 and five earned the honor in 2012. Bearkats have been finalists for the Walter Payton and Buck Buchanan post-season awards. A total of 21 student-athletes, a program high, received All-Southland Conference honors following the 2012 championship season.
"This is an award for our entire university and athletic program," Fritz said. "I want to thank our university and athletic administration for their great support, our coaching staff for all their hard work and, of course, our student-athletes who represent this university so well not only on the field but in the community and the classroom."
Fritz's student-athletes have enjoyed success in the classroom as well. In his first two seasons, 70 Bearkats were named to the Southland Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll, and in 2011 Sam Houston State placed seven players on the Academic All-Southland Conference team, the most for any school. That same season saw quarterback Greg Sprowls earn the NCAA's prestigious Elite 89 Award at the FCS level.
Beyond the success on the field, Coach Fritz has established a culture of community responsibility among his players and staff. Among their activities are canned food drives for the Good Shepherd Mission in Huntsville, fundraisers for the Ronald McDonald House and the Wounded Warrior Project, and weekly visits to local schools to read with children.