December 15, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Willie Fritz cites his humble beginnings, his breadth of coaching experiences at lower levels of football and his record of turning around struggling programs as reasons he was the right coach at the right time for Tulane.

The 55-year-old Fritz, who was formally introduced as the Green Wave's 40th head coach on Tuesday, said the fact that Tulane has appeared in a mere two bowl games since 1999 - and hasn't won one since 2002 - didn't give him a moment's pause.

''I love the challenge,'' said Fritz, who spent the past two seasons in his first Division I Football Bowl Subdivision job at Georgia Southern. ''It was the same situation for me at every stop along the way.''

Georgia Southern was in its first year of a transition to the NCAA Division I FBS from the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision when Fritz arrived. A year earlier, the Eagles had gone 4-4 in the Southern Conference at the FCS level.

Fritz coached Georgia Southern to a Sun Belt Conference title in its first season in the FBS, but the Eagles were barred by NCAA rules from playing in a bowl game in their transition year. This season, Georgia Southern went 8-4 and will play its first bowl game at the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

''When he came in and did what he did with basically an FCS roster in winning the Sun Belt and then getting right back to where he was this year, to me, that was more affirmation of his talent as a coach,'' said new Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen, who said Fritz was his top choice from the outset of his maiden coaching search at Tulane. ''We need somebody who has been around a winning culture, who knows how to build a program.''

Fritz ran the triple option at Georgia Southern, and said he'd retain elements of it at Tulane, but would mainly run whatever best suits the talent he has.

''We are going to see what our guys can do,'' Fritz said. ''I'm not going to try and force something that won't work.''

Tulane is coming off of consecutive 3-9 seasons under Curtis Johnson, who was fired late last month. But the Green Wave opened a new, on-campus football stadium in 2014, when it also moved to the American Athletic Conference.

Fritz has built winners at Blinn College, a junior college in Texas; at Division II Central Missouri; and at Sam Houston State of the FCS.

''I've lined the fields. I've washed the jocks. I've done it all,'' Fritz said. ''Troy Dannen went off the beaten path hiring me. I don't have a bunch of gel in my hair; I have a little gray. ... I haven't been the latest flavor of the week. I've been a high school coach. I taught elementary P.E. I've done a lot of different jobs, so I appreciate this opportunity.''

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AP college website: collegefootball.ap.org

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