Willie Fritz has been a football coach of some sort longer than I’ve been alive. He became a head coach the same year Schindler’s List won Best Picture and “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston was on top of the Billboard charts.
He’s been doing it for a long time, is what I’m trying to say.
And over that time, he has had success at every stop he’s made:
- At Blinn College. he took a team that had gone 5-24 over the past 3 years and went 39-5, winning two JUCO National Championships.
- He then went to Central Missouri, getting them to their first postseason in 32 years during his 4th season at the helm, and getting them into the Division II Playoff one year later, the program’s first playoff appearance. He left as their winningest coach in school history.
- Fritz then took over Sam Houston State and rattled off three Playoff appearances in four years, losing in the championship game against North Dakota State twice.
- He then took over a baby FBS program called Georgia Southern and decided to win the Sun Belt outright in his first year and repeat with another 9 wins in his second year.
- Looking for another challenge, Fritz went to the smart-kid school of the American Athletic, Tulane, and is still building them up as of this year.
The man wins. He runs the option, his teams play nasty defense, and he keeps his teams in the game with excellent game planning and tactics. It’s not always flashy, but he takes programs that are outgunned and down-on-their-luck and gets them positive results.
Oh, and I should mention, in his twenty-seven (27) years of being a head coach, the man has had four (4) losing seasons. FOUR.
Even with THE POWER OF THE INTERNET at my fingertips, it was incredibly difficult to find any team data for the teams that Fritz was a part of pre-2000. Consequently, there’s not as much information as I like to provide in this chart or in his deconstructed record, but I did the best I could.
Fritz was a defensive back at Pittsburg State and coached the defensive side of the ball but he’s an interesting case study for me breaking down coaches in this manner because he’s not really a defensive guy. His calling card, truly, is the fact that he brings the option with him to the programs he takes over. And while it is a modified shotgun-veer-based option at Tulane, it is the option nonetheless. His defense are generally pretty good as well, mind you, but there’s no “Fritz defensive style” other than, ya know....good. His offenses, meanwhile, are typically excellent. It usually takes a year or two to click but, once it does, he’s reliably taking out-manned teams and transforming them into Top 40 offensive units.
Uh....this is not a strong suit of his. Not only does he recruit to a specific style that tends to ostracize high-end talent, but spending 21 years in JUCO/D-II/FCS means that it’s hard to get a good idea of just how his recruiting would translate to the SEC. For our purposes, let’s safely assume that he would not transform Missouri into a Top 25 recruiting program; instead (and regardless of the possible positive impact) let’s take a negative view and assume he keeps it in the 30s-40s or even have recruiting wilt to the high 50s. Obviously, this is a demerit to any resume of a coach looking to work in the P5; I doubt it would get worse, but not being able to improve Missouri’s recruiting isn’t great.
THIS is where Fritz shines. He doesn’t recruit well, but he consistently develops teams that out perform their projections and this is why you hire Fritz. He might have to knock the house down to the studs but he will rebuild your derelict program and make them competent and competitive. Sure, 79th and 52nd and 45th isn’t where Missouri wants to be but those are giant steps up for Georgia Southern and Tulane. If you’re going to operate at a deficit to your peers, you want someone who can maximize the stuff you have and Fritz has consistently been able to do that.
Yeah, the deconstructed record doesn’t look impressive, I’ll admit it. But I do want to point out a couple of things:
- I couldn’t find his game-to-game records for Blinn or Central Missouri, so home/road/ranked/winning record is only what I could find
- Playing at the FCS/G5 level means you get paid to play some awesome P5 teams, typically ranked, always on the road
- Despite all of that, Fritz has a better record against ranked teams than Lane Kiffin and Jim McElwain do :)
- Also, Fritz absolutely DOMINATES at home
Bill Connelly likes Willie Fritz. Willie Fritz says Missouri is his dream job. I like Willie Fritz. It’s not flashy, it won’t immediately sell tickets, but he would turn this program into a tough, competitive team that would be annoyance for the SEC in the first years and, possibly, a looming threat for years to come. Let’s get weird and hire this man!