Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen interviewed two candidates for the open football coaching job Wednesday and plans to talk to at least three more Thursday, sources confirmed to The Advocate.
One of the men he will interview Thursday is Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz, a source said, but the identity of the others is unclear in what has been a tight-lipped search. The only certainty was that TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham — whom at least one report from a national publication and multiple tweets identified as likely or definitely having accepted the Tulane job — is not even a candidate for the position.
Dannen is conducting all of his interviews in New York, where the National Football Foundation annual awards dinner happened Tuesday at the Waldorf Astoria. The event attracts numerous coaches, making it easy for Dannen to get his work done at a central location.
Fritz, 55, was a fringe candidate for the Tulane job in 2011 when he coached at Sam Houston State of the FCS. He moved to Georgia Southern in 2014 and guided it to an 8-0 record in the Sun Belt Conference. The Eagles, who went 9-3 overall, almost upset eventual Orange Bowl winner Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Ineligible for the postseason last year as a transitional member of the FBS, Georgia Southern (8-4, 6-2) is headed to the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, on Dec. 23 to play Bowling Green after finishing third in the Sun Belt this year.
Fritz went 40-15 in four years at Sam Houston State, losing in the FCS championship games in 2011 and 2012. He spent the previous 13 seasons as coach of Division II Central Missouri and four years before then at Blinn Junior College.
Fritz’s team runs the triple option. Georgia Southern averages a nation’s best 355.6 rushing yards this year and is last in passing with 61.8 yards, averaging fewer than five completions.
That offense is about as far away as possible from Meacham’s offense, but apparently still not as far away as Meacham was from becoming Tulane’s new coach Wednesday.
The erroneous information linking Meacham to the job began leaking in the early afternoon after TCU co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie rejected a sizeable offer by Texas to become its sole offensive coordinator, electing to stay with the Horned Frogs even though Meacham is the play-caller there.
A source unconnected to Tulane floated the idea that Cumbie stayed only because Meacham was leaving for New Orleans.
Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com then refuted the story, tweeting out Dannen’s interview schedule and adding a source told him Meacham “was not even a candidate.” Tulane sources confirmed the accuracy of McMurphy’s information, with one saying he was “100-percent certain” Meacham had not been considered.
Dannen faces little competition as he looks for a coach to replace Curtis Johnson, who was fired Nov. 28 after going 15-34 in four years at Tulane. East Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe and BYU are the only other schools with openings. Louisiana-Monroe, a member of the Sun Belt, cannot offer nearly as much money as Tulane. BYU limits itself to coaches who are practicing members of Mormon faith.
Still, Tulane has some incentive to hire a coach by the end of the week. With the NCAA recruiting dead period starting Monday and lasting through Jan. 13, the new coaches would be unable to contact commitments or prospective recruits for a month if they are not in place before then.
Advocate staff writer Ross Dellenger contributed to this report.