For Tulane, Fritz extension is wise investment in a proven winner

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Fritz, Tulane postgame celebration
(Photo: Parker Waters)

All too often, we have a tendency to exaggerate accomplishments or actions that make a splash.

The word splash certainly applies to the Green Wave of Tulane.

With a high tide from the side show that is Hurricane Sally splashing water onto Lakeshore Drive, the lake that is Tulane football runs deep and it has run ashore, overtopping the levee wall that has contained Green Wave football for far too long.

Through 1950, Tulane was an impressive program, posting 35 winning seasons and just 15 losing seasons with seven seasons at .500.

In particular, Clark Shaughnessy, Bernie Bierman and Red Dawson were notable.

All posted consistent winners.

Shaughnessy was an impressive 59-28-7 in 11 seasons (1915-20, 1922-26), the longest tenured head coach in Tulane football history.

Bierman was 36-10-4 in five seasons (1927-31), including a 9-0 season in 1929 when Tulane declined a Rose Bowl offer and a Rose Bowl appearance in 1931, when the Green Wave were 11-1.

Dawson finished 36-19-4 in six seasons (1936-41). That included a 1939 season when Tulane was 9-1-1 and made a Sugar Bowl appearance in its home stadium.

What they all had in common was that each was at Tulane for more than five seasons.

From 1950-2017, Tulane posted just 15 winning seasons, 51 losing seasons and two .500 seasons.

During that time, only five head coaches completed five full seasons and none came close to finishing with winning records.

Whenever a head coach experienced success, in a season or two, that coach caught the first bus out of town that he could find to, pardoning the pun, greener pastures.

Of course, no one could blame Jim Pittman, Larry Smith, Mack Brown or Tommy Bowden for doing so. All were offered better jobs with more money. All were patently aware of the lack of facilities, budget and winning at Tulane and were very wary of staying too long and watching their respective stars fade on young, hot, promising careers.

Another factor to consider is that all were young in their respective careers and upwardly mobile.

Pittman was just 45. Smith was only 40. Brown was a mere 36. Bowden was blossoming at 44.

Stability and continuity have been a lingering problem for long-suffering, loyal Tulane fans.

So has the concept of commitment from the university.

Now, the principles of stability, continuity and commitment appear to have merged in harmony.

While the waves roar on the playing field, the tide of turning over coaches and losing appears to have calmed.

The decision to extend the contract of Willie Fritz, which was through 2023, through 2027, was a sound business decision. It was a smart football decision.

Troy Dannen and the university have invested in a solid coach and person who has guided Tulane back through choppy surf to a level playing field with most, if not all teams in the tough American Athletic Conference.

He has done so by hiring a solid staff that can coach and can recruit.

No matter how well you coach players up, you have to have players who can play to coach the up and have a chance to win by recruiting players who are good enough.

Fritz and his staff have done both, bringing a better quality of player and coaching well.

No, Tulane is not over the hump yet, not with just two consecutive winning seasons (barely) at 7-6 each.

Bowden had two straight winning seasons in 1997-98 and left for Clemson.

Vince Gibson had two straight winning seasons (1981-82), could not post a third and lost his job despite beating LSU twice in succession.

Bennie Ellender had consecutive winning seasons (1972-73) but the Tulane graduate could not sustain the success, following with two losing seasons and was dismissed.

The last coach to have three straight winning seasons was Henry Frnka (1948-50). That was 70 years ago.

Fritz is poised to end that ignominious streak.

Additionally, Fritz already holds the program record with two straight bowl wins, never before accomplished in 126 previous seasons of Green Wave football.

While Fritz has had his name mentioned or, on one occasion, even attached to another higher level job opening, he has not come close to leaving.

By investing in Fritz for seven more years, Tulane has made the necessary commitment to an excellent coach and to its previously floundering program.

Finally, Tulane wants to win.

Finally, Tulane has committed to a coach who can win on a long-term basis, displaying loyalty in return for loyalty.

Finally, Tulane has the right man for the job, a man not likely to leave any time soon.

In fact, Fritz is now more likely not to leave at all, given the commitment made to him and due to the direction and now the perception of the program by all observers, most notably prospective recruits.

Fritz stated on my radio show on 106.1 FM that he has the resources and budget necessary to compete and win in the American Athletic Conference, to be competitive with other schools in paying assistant coaches.

Fritz is also more likely not to leave due to where he is in his career, at the age of 60, in his 28th year as a head coach and his 39th overall as a coach at the junior college or college level.

As we stated when Fritz was hired, Tulane was getting a proven, consistent winner.

Fritz won at Blinn College. He won at Central Missouri State, Sam Houston State and at Georgia Southern, posting a gaudy record of 193-74-1 in those four previous stints running programs.

After the comeback victory at South Alabama to open the 2020 season, Fritz is still just 24-27 at Tulane but that was after starting 9-17 in his first two seasons in a tough league while building a new system with new coaches, new players and a new culture.

The newness has worn off. The system is in place. The results are clear.

The timing is right. For Dannen and deserving Tulane fans, this may be the perfect storm.

In the midst of a year of nothing but storms, literally and figuratively, a Rip Tide now permeates Tulane football.

While it is too early to say, the prospect of a third straight winning season is on course, skippered by a steady hand toward a pleasant landing spot in another bowl game. With the promise of many more pleasant landings, Tulane is riding the wave of momentum Fritz has established.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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