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January 8, 2014

BEARKAT FOOTBALL — Amidst speculation about Fritz taking over at Georgia Southern, Kats coach says he's happy at SHSU

Fritz admits to talking with Bowling Green, Georgia Southern, but also says he plans on coaching the Kats for a long time to come

HUNTSVILLE — At this time of year there’s a domino effect on the college football coaching carousel and teams are still figuring out how to address their needs.

In doing so, head coaches, coordinators and assistant coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision, as well as the FCS, often draw interest about positions at other schools.

This offseason hasn’t been any different for Sam Houston State football head coach Willie Fritz.

The Bearkats coach, who has patrolled the Sam Houston State sidelines the past four seasons, has gotten interest from both Bowling Green, which hired Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers as head coach, as well as Georgia Southern.

“When you have success at this level, oftentimes schools at the FBS level will reach out to you and see what level of interest you might have,” Fritz said Tuesday.

Georgia Southern, which boasts the most FCS national championships (6) of any current or former FCS program, has been conducting a coaching search since Dec. 24 when then Eagles head coach Jeff Monken accepted the same position at Army.

According to various online sources, including Macon, Ga., newspaper, The Telegraph, Fritz has been mentioned as the coach who could lead Georgia Southern into the FBS next season. He’s listed as a candidate “out of left field” that has interviewed for the position, according to Sam Houston State sources, the Telegraph states.

“Well, I’ve talked with some (Georgia Southern) people, but I haven’t been there or anything like that,” Fritz told the Item.

“All I can tell you is that I’m really happy at Sam. I really like who I’m working for and with. There’s always times when people are talking to you. The thing I’m fortunate with is that I’ve got a great job where I am.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Fritz was named as one of a select few for the Eagles job. Vanderbilt co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry turned down Georgia Southern, keeping the position vacant, the Statesboro (Ga.) Herald reported

“I was the leading candidate (at GSU). That’s what I was told,” Pry told Jeff Lockridge of the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean, according to a blog post. “That’s why I didn’t want to delay this any further. I didn’t want to put them in that position. I was told it was my job, so I felt like I needed to let them know.”

In a statement that was released Monday, Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein said that GSU will “soon” name its next head coach.

The Statesboro Herald reported that Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper is expected to interview with Georgia Southern a second time, according to a source close to the Naval Academy, and that Fritz is also rumored to be in the running for the job.

As of Tuesday morning, Fritz says he has not received any offers from Georgia Southern or any other schools.

“It would have to be something that would be one heck of an opportunity. I’ve got a great situation here,” Fritz said of the scenario it would take to leave the Bearkat football program.

“I just like it so much here. My family loves Huntsville. They love Sam Houston. I’ve got two of my kids currently enrolled here. My daughter’s a junior in high school. I’ve got really good friendships and relationships that I’ve developed since I’ve been here.

“I’m one of those guys who just keeps their nose to the grindstone and works their tail off. Sometimes people notice what you’re doing. I had a good job at Central Missouri and I left to come down here. For me to leave Sam, it’s going to be the right situation.”

Beginning with the conclusion of the 2011 season in which the Bearkats advanced to their first FCS national championship game, Fritz has been rumored to take over at a number of schools, including UTEP and Southern Mississippi.

“The thing about it is that as long as I’ve been here, I haven’t contacted anyone. They’ve contacted me,” Fritz said. “That’s good. That’s a credit to our football program that we’ve had, as I’ve said before, because of a lot of good players, coaches, and administration that allow us to be successful.

“I’m not one to go and look at every single thing that comes out there. I’ve got a great job. What I tell everyone who contacts me is that I’ve got a great situation here at Sam Houston. I’m very well taken care of and I’ve got great people to work for.”

While Fritz is still rumored to be one of Georgia Southern’s final choices, he said his current task and that of his staff is to do a solid job in the final month of recruiting to bring in a strong signing class on national signing day.

“We have got a really good group of kids coming in this weekend who I’m very excited about,” Fritz said. “We feel like our brand or perception has really improved. A lot of kids have seen us on TV or seen us play at Bowers Stadium. There’s also a lot of kids who are getting indoctrinated to our university and our campus.

“They know we’ve got a great product here academically and athletically. ... We feel like we’re in a much better position now than we were four years ago, I know that.”

Coming off a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, Fritz says that the Bearkat football program has plenty of momentum right now and that could result in another strong recruiting class.

“We’re one of only three teams to get back to the playoffs the last three years in a row,” Fritz said. “I think that says a lot about our program as well. We’ve got a lot of good, young kids and they’re back. We lost some good players and we lost some players the year before and the year before that. One of the things we want to do is to build a football program, rather than just have a good team. I think we’ve done that.

“The future’s bright. I think (Sam Houston State) is a hidden gem and it’s starting to get exposed to everyone in the state of Texas. Obviously, I wouldn’t have my kids go here if it wasn’t a top-notch university. I like the direction we’re headed in. I think the future’s very bright. We’ve got to get these kids, but I think we right now we have an opportunity to have the best recruiting class we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Fritz also said that unless circumstances were to change, he plans on being at Sam Houston for a long time.

“It would have to be a really good situation to get me to change jobs because I’ve got a great situation here,” he added. “Again, that’s a credit to our football program.”

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