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Houston hires Tulane’s Willie Fritz as its next head coach

Fritz leaves Tulane for the Big 12 after back-to-back AAC Championship Game appearances and a New Year’s Six victory.

Cincinnati v Tulane Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It’s a new era in Houston, TX.

The Houston Cougars hired Willie Fritz to be the program’s next head coach Sunday, replacing the recently fired Dana Holgorsen.

Fritz spent the past eight seasons at Tulane and altered the trajectory of the program. From 2003 to 2015, the Green Wave only saw one winning season, faring 7-6 in 2013. Fritz’s tenure with Tulane — which launched in 2016 — concluded in back-to-back AAC Championship Game appearances, including a conference title and New Year’s Six victory in 2022.

“I am truly humbled and honored to join the University of Houston family and to be a part of the strong athletics tradition at UH,” Fritz said in a statement. “There is no ceiling for success, with the incredible fan support, excellent facilities, talented young men and a collective desire to compete for championships. We will build a program that all Coogs can be proud of and I cannot wait to see the results.”

In 2022, Fritz completed the statistically most impressive turnaround in college football history, elevating Tulane from a 2-10 record in 2021 to 12-2 the following year. He put Tulane on the national radar in September that season by taking down eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State on the road, kept the momentum rolling with a 45-28 victory over UCF in the AAC Championship Game, and then crafted his magnum opus, stunning USC in the Cotton Bowl 46-45 — despite trailing by 15 with 4:30 remaining.

The 2022 Cotton Bowl was one of three bowl wins and four bowl appearances Fritz attained in his 8-year tenure. He finished a 54-47 overall record, only finishing below .500 once in his last six seasons.

Fritz possesses several ties to the state of Texas, including the Southeast Texas area. He served as an assistant on Sam Houston’s staff in Huntsville, TX from 1984-85 and again from 1991-92, before serving as the program’s head coach from 2010-13. Additionally, he worked as an assistant at Willis High School in Conroe, TX in 1986 and operated as the head coach of Blinn College — the junior college Cam Newton attended before Auburn — from 1993-96.

Fritz, who turns 64 in April, is making his first coaching move since leaving Georgia Southern for Tulane in December 2015. He will be the 16th full-time head coach in Houston history, leading the Cougars in their second year of Big 12 membership.

“No one in the country has been better at leading and developing student-athletes than Willie Fritz,” athletic director Chris Pezman said in a statement. “Over his more than three-decades of head coaching experience, he has guided several football programs to historic success. We’re excited to welcome Willie, his wife, Susan, and their entire family, to Cougar Nation and look forward to putting our full support behind Coach Fritz as we look to take the next steps in the Big 12 Conference.”