The Huntsville presentation of the Liberty Mutual “Coach of the Year” award to Sam Houston’s Willie Fritz and a $20,000 scholarship award to the university will be one of the highlights of Thursday’s Orange-White Spring football scrimmage at Joseph Pritchett Field.

Before the 7 p.m. start of the annual spring game, Liberty Mutual Insurance will present  Fritz with his trophy and four charities selected by Fritz and the Sam Houston Alumni Association with a combined $70,000 to support their programs in honor of the coach’s 2012 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award. 

The Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award is presented annually to one head football coach in each of the four NCAA divisions who best exemplify sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence on and off the field. 

Each winning coach receives $50,000 to donate to his favorite charities, and $20,000 in scholarship for his school’s alumni association.  Since 2006, the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award has celebrated the 25 coaches by donating $1.75 million to nearly 100 charities and college alumni scholarship funds.

Fritz’s award will positively touch thousands of individuals and families through the four organizations he has chosen to support. 

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, will receive a $15,000 donation; as will the Huntsville chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Additionally, $10,000 donations from Liberty Mutual will be made to Friday Harbour, which provides free temporary housing for cancer patients and their caregivers as they seek treatment at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Cancer Center in Houston, and the Boys & Girls Club of Walker County.

“There are many things on the field to celebrate about our team’s 2012 season, but what I am most proud of is our work off the field – in the classrooms and local community,” said Fritz.  “That is what makes receiving the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award so special – it celebrates the greater good that a football program can mean to its alumni, fans, and community.”

In addition to supporting Fritz’s chosen charities, Liberty Mutual Insurance will award $20,000 to the Sam Houston State Alumni Association to support academic scholarship and programming.

Sam Houston Director of Alumni Relations Charles Vienne said, “Coach Fritz is a shining example of commitment to academic success and on-field performance of his Bearkat players.  We are grateful to Liberty Mutual Insurance for recognizing Coach Fritz and for their generous contribution which will be felt all across the Sam Houston State campus.”

In three years since arriving in Huntsville, Coach Willie Fritz built the Sam Houston State Bearkats from a sub-.500 program to 31 victories and back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division I (FCS) national championship game for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  Coach Fritz’s student-athletes have enjoyed success in the classroom as well.  In his first three seasons, 70 Bearkats were named to the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll. 

Fritz’s commitment to the Huntsville community can also be seen through the culture of community responsibility he instills in his players and staff.  In addition to the charities supported through his award, Fritz and his team have participated in canned food drives for the Good Shepherd Mission in Huntsville, fundraisers for the Ronald McDonald House, and weekly visits to local schools to read with children.

“Coach Fritz embodies the qualities that it takes to lead a college football program to success on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” said James MacPhee, senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer, Liberty Mutual Personal Insurance.  “Honoring him with a trophy is wonderful, but providing these charitable and scholarship gifts throughout his community and to the university alumni association is the true reward of our Coach of the Year program.”

The Orange-White football scrimmage will complete 2013 spring drills for a squad that returns 40 lettermen and 12 starters from last year’s 11-4 Southland Conference championship team that reached the NCAA Division I national title game in Frisco for the second year in a row.

The Huntsville Police Department and SHSU University Police advice that there will be parking available in the area surrounding Joseph Pritchett Field for the annual Orange-White spring football scrimmage.

The police departments ask that patrons please respect area businesses parking areas, avoid blocking residence driveways, fire hydrants and parking in handicapped parking spaces without proper authorization. 

The streets around Pritchett will be a “ticket free zone” from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday night excluding the above exceptions.

Saint Thomas Catholic Church and First Christian Church, both located within three blocks of the field, have opened their lots for parking as well.