Willie Fritz, who accumulated a 40-15 record in four years with Sam Houston State, told the Huntsville Item in Texas on Thursday that he has accepted the Eagles’ head coaching job.
Fritz, 53, will be announced to Georgia Southern fans and media Friday at noon at Paulson Stadium’s Bishop Field House.
Several sources close to the Eagles football program initially confirmed the hiring of Fritz, who beat out finalists Ivin Jasper (Navy’s offensive coordinator), Tim Horton (Auburn’s running back coach) and Mike Ayers (Wofford’s head coach).
Georgia Southern has not confirmed or denied Fritz’s hiring.
Fritz will take over for coach Jeff Monken, who accepted the head coaching position at Army on Dec. 24.
At a press conference in Statesboro to officially announce Monken’s departure on Dec. 24, Eagles athletics director Tom Kleinlein laid out his plans to find a new coach.
“We need to find a coach who understands what it is to run a program and be a CEO,” Kleinlein said. “He needs to be part of our community. He needs to understand and embrace the traditions of our institution.
“And he needs to understand where we’re going forward with our program, not only from a football standpoint, but where we’re going as a university.”
It’s a big move for Georgia Southern, which announced plans to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (teams playing with a maximum of 85 scholarships) and the Sun Belt Conference only 10 months ago.
The Georgia Southern job drew interest from numerous candidates including Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
Vanderbilt co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry was a leading candidate, but he withdrew his name from consideration on Monday, most likely to stay with Commodores coach James Franklin, a leading candidate for the Penn State job.
Fritz seemed to be an outsider to the Georgia Southern community but has established himself as one of the top coaches in the FCS while at Sam Houston State. Fritz took the Bearkats to FCS finals in 2011 and 2012 before losing both times to North Dakota State.