Troy Dannen came into town on a mission – find a football coach that can get the program back to respectability. Dannen did not waste any time with a search committee, he went out and got his man – Willie Fritz of Georgia Southern.
Fritz is a rock-solid pick for the Green Wave. He has shown the ability to quickly transform programs into winners, repeatedly taking his schools to new heights throughout his career. On the junior college level, Fritz took Blinn College (Texas), from a pitiful 5-24-1 record over three seasons, to two national junior college championships.
That early success would propel Fritz onto a trajectory of moving up in class, succeeding, and then moving on to greater challenges. After his success at Blinn College, Fritz would move on to coach the Central Missouri Mules (which have to sell “Kickin’ A–” T-shirts, right?). His Mules would go 5-6 in his first season, but would have winning campaigns in 11 out of the next 12 seasons. Including a stretch, from 2001 to 2003, where the Mules would go 29-6. That’s kickin' booty folks. And, on a personal note – CMU’s campus was in Warrensburg, Missouri; which is 409 miles from where one of my friends grew up – Cooter, Missouri. Yep.
Coach Fritz took his show to Sam Houston State of the Southland conference in 2010 – where, in four years, he would produce four winning seasons, and two FCS national championship appearances with the Bearkats (yes, with a “K”). It was heady days in Houston, as the university experienced unprecedented success under Fritz’s leadership and that of Bearkat baseball’s David Pierce, who coached his teams to the NCAA Regionals three years straight before packing his bags, and heading to…Tulane. Roll Wave.
Fritz moved on to Georgia Southern – where there would be no losing seasons (he hasn’t fielded a losing team since 2006). He would only coach in Statesboro for two seasons, but it may be the biggest feather in his cap. Georgia Southern is a football program steeped in winning traditions – collecting six Division 1-AA championships (now called the FCS). But in 2014, Georgia Southern made the jump to the FBS, a.k.a where the big boys play. Once again, Fritz led the Eagles to new heights – in their first year, becoming the only FBS team to go undefeated in it’s conference, the Sun Belt, in it’s inaugural year. This year, in the team’s first year of bowl eligibility, Fritz led the team to the GoDaddy Bowl.
Which brings us to – cue the 1980 Prince hit – Uptown. The Green Wave faithful are happy, and eager. It is a complete 180-degree change from just two weeks ago, when the Green Wave fans were staring down another three-win campaign under Curtis Johnson.
Tulane is back in the good graces of New Orleans. Tulane news is actually leading off some sports shows around town, instead of being an afterthought, and a joke at that. Dannen’s hire is already a success, in that it has re-energized a community desperate for victory.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing – Eagle Creek Brewing’s “Southern Winter’s Are Warmer” Ale
Playlist Recommendation – Goldfrapp – “Number 1”
Around the Way
Staying Uptown…with the arrival of a new AD, the coaches who have been stuck in mediocrity all have to be considered on the hot seat – maybe none more so than Ed Conroy, coach of the men’s basketball team. After a so-so stint at The Citadel, Conroy took over the program in 2010. Unfortunately, in his first five years, the Green Wave have gone 80-81 and have only posted one winning season. Last week, while the Green Wave played well, but just could never catch, Georgia Tech in a 76-68 loss; they have also looked sloppy in losses to the likes of Mercer and Alabama A&M. Being upset a few times early in the season is bad, but what’s worse for the school is that watching basketball in Devlin Fieldhouse is a lonely experience. Like, kick back and take a nap, lonely. Like, if you’re talking on your cellphone during the game, everyone watching on ESPN 8, is going to hear your conversation lonely. Devlin Fieldhouse is a great facility that can hold up to 4,100 fans. So, something is amiss, when a tough program like Georgia Tech shows up, and the place isn’t even half-full. But, to make that happen, the fans have to be shown a product that inspires allegiance. They just haven’t seen that in awhile. The team gets a few shots at creating some positive headlines this week, as it heads out on the road. The Green Wave plays North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Mississippi State in Starkville. Good luck, men.
Staying in Devlin Fieldhouse…and in happier news, the women’s basketball team is still undefeated at home, after handling McNeese State, 74-55. Besides a rough start to the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas – where the Green Wave dropped two games, the women have looked strong. They hold victories over LSU and Virginia, and just came up short in a loss to Florida State on the road. Seems like Kolby Morgan (number three in your program, number one in your heart) and the team are poised to make some noise this year in the American, but before that they will try to knock off their second SEC opponent – Ole Miss in Oxford – this Wednesday night at 6 p.m. Roll Wave.
*Final image from TulaneGreenWave.com