Georgia Tech closing in on Tulane’s Willie Fritz as next head coach

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech is closing in on its next head football coach and all indications point to Tulane coach Willie Fritz, a person familiar with the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. A deal was not in place as of Sunday night and could take a few days to complete.

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Fritz is in his seventh year at Tulane, where he has an overall record of 41-45 but has led the Green Wave to a breakthrough this season with a 10-2 record, the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship and a spot in the conference championship game this Saturday in New Orleans.

The news follows an AJC report late Saturday that Fritz was receiving serious consideration from Tech in the search to replace Geoff Collins, who was fired in September four games into his fourth season. Fritz has interviewed for the position and Tech has done its due diligence on him, including reference checks.

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Fritz has distinguished himself among the four candidates who had interviewed for the job (Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell, Tech interim coach Brent Key, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and Fritz) for having achieved something that Tech athletic director J Batt has been hired to lead – the building of a program at a school with high academic standards.

Fritz was hired at Tulane in December 2015 to replace a regime that was 15-34 with one winning season. The three coaches prior to Fritz, covering a total of 17 seasons, had achieved three winning seasons, two bowl trips and one winning conference record.

In Fritz’s seven seasons, the Green Wave have posted three winning seasons (including this year), gone to three bowl games (with a fourth trip on the way) and this year won the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship and will play UCF on Saturday in the conference title game. Tulane is 10-2 overall, 7-1 in the AAC and ranked 19th. The last time Tulane was in the Top 25 before this season was 1998.

Fritz, 62, is in his 30th season as a head coach, having started at the junior-college level, then Division II and FCS before coaching at Georgia Southern in its first two years at the FBS level before getting hired at Tulane.

A glaring hole in Fritz’s résumé is a lack of experience coaching at a power-conference school. Two other candidates, Key and O’Brien, have spent ample time coaching at that level. O’Brien had been an assistant coach at Tech and was a head coach at Penn State besides his two seasons as offensive coordinator at Alabama. Key, a Tech alumnus, won the support of alumni by having led the Yellow Jackets to a 4-4 record in eight games as an interim in place of Collins. With Fritz being 62, there also are questions about his longevity.

On social media Sunday night, much of the response to Fritz as a potential coach of the Jackets centered on his sub-.500 record at Tulane. In addition to taking over a losing program, Fritz coached the 2021 season through extraordinary circumstances, as the team was displaced by Hurricane Ida and finished 2-10.

But what Fritz has over the other three candidates is experience and a long record of success. Fritz has been a coach since 1982 and a head coach since 1993. Only O’Brien, who entered the profession in 1993, comes close.

In 26 years as head coach at Division II Central Missouri, FCS Sam Houston State and FBS Georgia Southern and Tulane, Fritz has a combined 195-114 record. At Georgia Southern (2014-15), Fritz was 17-7, including a 13-2 record in the Sun  Belt Conference. In 2014, Georgia Southern’s first year at the FBS level, the Eagles won the league title at 8-0, becoming the first team to go undefeated in its conference in its first season at the FBS level.