HOUSTON — Willie Fritz, who has won the second-most games in Tulane's 130-season history, was hired as Houston’s coach on Sunday, replacing Dana Holgorsen, who was fired a week ago after five seasons with the Cougars.
Fritz spent the last eight seasons at Tulane, where he was named American Athletic Conference coach of the year in the last two seasons.
Fritz has led Tulane to consecutive AAC championship games. The Green Wave lost to SMU 26-14 in the title game Saturday to end the regular season 11-2.
“No one in the country has been better at leading and developing student-athletes than Willie Fritz,” Houston Vice President for Athletics 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.”
Fritz ranks fifth in the nation among active FBS coaches with 208 career victories. Tulane’s 23 wins since the start of the 2022 season are fourth-most in the country and the team’s 15 conference wins are fifth in the nation during that span.
He went 54-47 in his tenure at Tulane, highlighted by last season’s 12-2 record, culminating with a stunning comeback victory over USC in the Cotton Bowl.
When he took over at Tulane in 2016, the Green Wave had appeared in just two bowl games since 1999, winning one. He led Tulane to three consecutive bowl games from 2018-2020, winning two. In 2021, with his team displaced to Birmingham by Hurricane Ida and ravaged by injuries, Tulane went 2-10. But the following season, with Michael Pratt as his quarterback, Fritz orchestrated the greatest turnaround in the history of college football. Tulane is the only college football program to improve its victory total by 10 from one season to the next.
“I am truly humbled and honored to join the University of Houston family and to be a part of the strong athletics tradition,” 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.”
Holgorsen was fired after Houston went 4-8 and 2-7 in the first season in Big 12 Conference play after leaving the AAC.
The 63-year-old Fritz has spent the last 31 seasons as a head coach, starting at Blinn College (1993-96) and then coaching at Central Missouri (2007-09), Sam Houston (2010-13) and Georgia Southern (2014-15) before he was hired at Tulane.
“From the outset of our search, coach Willie Fritz stood out for his track record of championship-level success across all levels of collegiate football,” UH System Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta said. “His achievements and reputation stand toe-to-toe with the best and brightest in the game. Our mission is to be a leader in the Big 12 Conference and provide our fans and donors a product they can be proud of. We’re excited to welcome Coach Fritz and his family to Houston and look forward to bright days together for Houston football.”
Tulane will go to its fifth bowl in six seasons, meeting Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland. Offensive coordinator Slade Nagle will be the Green Wave's interim coach for that game, and it remains unclear if Pratt — a Senior Bowl invitee and Tulane's all-time leader in yards and touchdowns passing — will play.
As a result of its recent unprecedented success in football, Tulane has lost an athletic director and football coach in less than two months. Former AD Troy Dannen left in October to take over at Washington. Newly hired Tulane AD David Harris will begin his tenure with a football coaching search.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.