By Cody Stark
Huntsville Item 

Since Willie Fritz became the 14th head coach in Sam Houston football last December, the new Bearkat mentor has been a whirlwind of action bringing enthusiasm back into the program.

From day one, Fritz has been determined to step right in and get the players, community, Sam Houston alumni and fan base fired up again and he had a plan to get it done.

"I wanted to get the players here to buy into what we are doing," Fritz said. "We wanted to find recruits that could fit into our program who were good players, good students and good people. I feel like we did that. I told the players and the community that we wanted to build a football program. Winning games in part of having a great football program but there are a lot of other things as well.

"We need to be good in the classroom and be part of the community. You bring in kids who can do that and handle the football stuff too. That is how you win games."

It didn't take long for Fritz to win over his players. He brought a new attitude and discipline into the locker room.

Everything is organized and Fritz has built the program from the ground up with guys who show the kind of integrity and leadership he wants out of his players. He also takes a hands-on approach in practice, even helping to coach the secondary, special teams and other positions as needed.

"Coach Fritz has brought a lot of energy to the program," senior cornerback Jarvis Pippins said. "From the trainers to the football players, everybody is excited about Bearkat football. Coach is the first person here and the last person to leave. He is running around helping the offense and the defense. He has brought some positive things to the program."

After getting the players to buy into his ideas, it was time for Fritz to get everybody else on board. He beat the bushes and hit the road to get people talking about Bearkat football again.

Seven months later as Sam Houston is set to open the 2010 season, the excitement is back.

Season ticket sales are up more than 20 per cent. A jam-packed house of more than 150 people showed up to hear Fritz talk as the featured speaker at a Sam Houston Alumni Association event in the Woodlands on Aug. 3.

"I think that when people see what you are selling and it is good that gets them on board," Fritz said. "I want our kids to graduate. I want them to act well in the community. I want them to win football games. With almost half of our team newcomers, we have a big task ahead of us this season. But everyone is going to work hard. We are going to put in our time during the season, in the offseason and in recruiting."

Sam Houston will open the season Saturday Sept. 4 at Baylor. Tickets for the game against Baylor can be purchased through the Sam Houston State athletic ticket office by calling 936-294-1729 or by going on the web at www.gobearkats.com/tickets.

Sam Houston opens its home schedule on Saturday Sept. 25 with Bearkat Family Weekend against Gardner-Webb. Special events during the evening include an appearance by the Houston Texans cheerleaders, a salute to Hillcrest Heroes honoring local police and fire-fighters, a huge pregame tailgate and a postgame fireworks display.

Other home games will be Oct. 16 (Homecoming) vs. Southeastern Louisiana, Nov. 6 vs. McNeese State and Nov. 20 vs. Texas State. The final three home games will kickoff at 2 p.m.

Season tickets for Bearkat football at Bowers Stadium are available through the new exciting "2-2-2" offer, order your tickets now by going to the Bearkat tickets page on www.gobearkats.com or call (936) 294-1729.

The "2-2-2" offer also includes two corner tickets to the "Battle of the Piney Woods" game with Stephen F. Austin at Reliant Stadium in Houston on October 23.

Fans also may visit the Sam Houston athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House located in the south end zone of Bowers Stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.