Willie Fritz remains at Tulane to coach vs. UCF in AAC title game

Following a weekend of rumors surrounding Tulane coach Willie Fritz and the Georgia Tech football job, the Green Wave announced Tuesday that he is staying and will coach the AAC championship vs. UCF.

The official statement from Tulane came an hour after multiple reports indicated that Georgia Tech would promote interim coach Brent Key to the full-time job instead of hiring externally.

Key spent a decade at UCF before heading to Alabama and ultimately joining the coaching staff at Georgia Tech in 2019. He played on the offensive line for the Yellow Jackets from 1997-2000.

Starting as a graduate assistant in Orlando, Key rose through the ranks from 2005-15. The long-time assistant was considered to be the “coach in waiting” for the Knights but UCF didn’t hire Key after firing former coach George O’Leary.

Key now gets his first chance to serve as a permanent head coach after earning the interim tag at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26, two days after a 27-10 loss to UCF and Geoff Collins’ firing.

The Yellow Jackets went 4-4 with Key as interim coach.

ESPN reported that Fritz was among 10-12 candidates to interview for the job.

Fritz addressed the coaching rumors with his team ahead of the AAC championship game and a likely New Year’s Six bowl appearance on the line.

“I’m the head football coach at Tulane, extremely proud to be the head football coach at Tulane and we’re looking forward to the ballgame on Saturday,” Fritz told reporters Monday. “That’s what I told them when I visited with them.”

Prior to Tuesday’s development, UCF coach Gus Malzahn already was under the impression that Fritz would coach the AAC title game regardless of his status.

“He’s one of the better coaches and hotter coaches in the country,” Malzahn said. “We’re expecting him to coach the team. He’s got a championship-type team. It doesn’t surprise me because he’s really good.”

Fritz said Monday that the reports tying him to Georgia Tech wouldn’t be a distraction for the Green Wave.

“It’s not [in] any way shape or form, and that’s the benefit of having a lot of veteran leadership on our squad,” he said. “I addressed it this morning and told them I’m all in and our goal is going 1-0 this week.”

UCF beat Tulane 38-31 on Nov. 12 in New Orleans. Malzahn expects Saturday’s game will be just as tough (ABC, 4 p.m.).

“I have a lot of respect for him as a coach,” Malzahn said. “He’s got those guys that have been playing really good football for two, three, four years. [He has] a veteran team and they’re so good defensively.”

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