The search for Sam Houston State’s 15th head football coach is underway.
Georgia Southern is announcing Friday at noon that Willie Fritz will be the Eagles’ new head coach.
Fritz directed the Bearkats to a 40-15 record, three FCS playoff berths, two Southland Conference titles and back-to-back NCAA Division I Championship Game appearances since taking over the program in 2010.
“The search for Sam Houston’s next head football coach has already begun,” Bearkat director of athletics Bobby Williams said. “Coach Fritz and I have worked the past two weeks on a transition plan in case this happened and we were able to implement it as soon as he called me with his decision Thursday.
“One of our goals when we hired Coach Fritz was to make Sam Houston State a program that was in the FCS national conversation every year. We have accomplished that.
“Our search criteria will involve national playoff and championship experience with preferred heading coaching experience.
“In addition, we are looking for candidates with demonstrated strong academic leadership that enhances the student-athlete experience. Another important factor will be the ability to connect with Sam Houston’s athletic and university community to enhance our Bearkat Champions Fund.”
The 34 victories (records of 14-1 in 2011, 11-4 in 2012 and 9-5 this past fall) represent the most wins in any three consecutive years in Sam Houston’s 97 years of intercollegiate football. Since the Kats broke into the FCS top 25 on Sept. 9, 2011, Sam Houston has been nationally ranked for 37 consecutive polls.
Sam Houston achieved the No. 1 ranking in the polls at the end of the 2011 regular season and finished No. 2 in the final rankings in both 2011 and 2012.
“Willie Fritz has changed the culture of our football program at Sam Houston State in his four years here,” Williams said. “With three consecutive FCS playoff trips, back-to-back NCAA Championship Game appearances and 10 ESPN telecasts, the Bearkats moved on to the national scene on his watch.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for Willie. We are appreciative of his work at our university. I’ve worked with Willie on three occasions at Sam Houston and have great respect for his integrity and ability. Our relationship as an athletic director and a football coach went above the normal dynamic of a supervisor and employee. We are great friends and, in this profession, you don’t have that opportunity very often.
Fritz played college football for former Sam Houston head coach Ron Randleman at Pittsburg State in Kansas. Fritz served two stints as an assistant in Huntsville, helping lead the Kats to conference titles in 1985 and 1991.
“We appreciate all that Coach Fritz has done for our university in running an outstanding program that underscored student success in the classroom as well as achievement on the football field,” Sam Houston State University President Dr. Dana Gibson said. “He has provided superb leadership while helping to enhance the stature of the university and its athletic program. Willie and his family have been important part of our campus community and we wish them the very best for continued success.”