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Houston reportedly closing on deal to hire Tulane head coach Willie Fritz

Houston has selected Tulane head coach Willie Fritz as its replacement for the fired Dana Holgorsen and is closing in on a deal to hire him, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The deal could reportedly be finalized as early as Sunday.

The news broke as No. 22 Tulane, the highest-ranked Group of 5 team in the country, was facing SMU in the American Athletic Conference, which is a testament to both the awkward timings of a coach-hiring cycle and the job Fritz has done over the last two years.

The idea of a Big 12 team nabbing Fritz back in 2021 would have been bizarre. At that point, Fritz was 61 years old and had just led the Green Wave to a 2-10 record, the worst mark of his decades-long head coaching career. In his first six seasons at Tulane, Fritz posted a 31-43 record with three bowl appearances and two wins.

What followed was one of the most surprising turnarounds in recent college football history. With many of the same key contributors from the previous season, Tulane went 12-2, winning the AAC championship and stunning USC in the Cotton Bowl. The effort earned Fritz multiple coach of the year awards. He was actually on the verge of leaving that season for Georgia Tech, but the timing of that year's AAC title game sunk the deal.

Tulane repeated its success this season, entering Saturday with an 11-1 record and another New Year's Six bowl bid in reach.

Fritz will now head west, continuing his career with a program that posted some successful seasons under Holgorsen but hit a brick wall in its first year of Big 12 play. Holgorsen was fired Sunday after the Cougars finished their season with a 4-8 record.

Fritz figures to be a natural fit at Houston, having seen success at pretty much every school he's worked. Before Tulane, he posted a 39-5-1 record at Blinn College, a 97-47 record at Central Missouri, a 40-15 record at Sam Houston State and a 17-7 record at Georgia Southern. Two of those schools were in Texas, so he has experience in the state as well.