Willie Fritz isn't young. The 59-year-old fourth-year Tulane head coach is not the sexy up-and-comer, nor is his background loaded with Power Five experience and apprenticeships under future Hall of Famers. Willie Fritz, however, is a winner and the guy for Missouri.
After bouncing between high school and JUCO assistant jobs in Kansas and Texas for a decade, as head coach, he led Blinn Community College to two JUCO national titles in the 1990s. He took over a middling Division-II program at Central Missouri and over 13 years led the Mules to 97 wins, two 10-win seasons and one playoff appearance, their first playoff appearance in 35.
Fritz won back-to-back conference titles and played in back-to-back FCS National Championship at Sam Houston State, and won a Sun Belt title in his first year at Georgia Southern. And at Tulane, he has 22 wins over four seasons, topping their combined win total from the six years before his arrival. The Green Wave are bowl eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time in two decades and won a division title in 2018.
Willie Fritz wins. He's a rarity in college football: An attainable, affordable, do-things-the-right-way winner who will win in Columbia.
“I can perform CPR on a mannequin like nobody’s business,” Fritz, a former CPR teacher, said at his introductory press conference at Tulane in December 2015.
Missouri needs CPR. They're not a pathetic, downtrodden program like their former border rival, whom many believed could target Fritz in their coaching last winter, but the Tigers need air. Gary Pinkel led unprecedented stability before retiring after the 2015 season. From 2007-14, Missouri won 76 games, the seventh-most in college football, and five division titles. Since 2015: 30-32 and countless off-the-field issues for the program and university.
They don't need to roll the dice on an unproven youngster without head-coaching experience. They don't need to invest millions in an out-of-touch retread, feel-good alum, or headline-grabbing splash.
They need Willie Fritz.