Coach Fitz begins “new era” at Southern Utah

Fitzgerald to players, media: “You guys will never be 1-10 again”

* Previous coverage: Fitzgerald named new Thunderbird football coach
Thunderbirds football website
Bobcats football website
* Job opening: Head football coach at FSU
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By Kevin Spradlin

For those who know him, it was no surprise that DeLane Fitzgerald opened with a story.

DeLane Fitzgerald was interested as the new head football coach at Southern Utah University. The introductory press conference was livestreamed on YouTube.

The former Frostburg State University football coach was introduced Thursday afternoon as the new head coach at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.

Fitzgerald was the featured speaker during a press conference held at the university. The half-hour event was followed by a meet-and-greet with university officials, players, fans and media.

His first comments weren’t about football, but about lost luggage and having to wear a new suit to his own introduction that was likely to have pins in it from the hastily organized alterations that took place roughly 30 minutes prior to the start of the press conference.

Like Southern Utah’s 1-10 record this year, though, Fitzgerald insisted that things will get better.

“You guys will never be 1-10 again,” Fitzgerald declared on a day he offered few guarantees. “I’m not promising national titles or conference titles (but) we’re going to be extremely competitive. We’re gonna do things the right way. We’re gonna wake up each day with the idea of daily improvement.”

Fitzgerald replaces Demario Warren, who guided the Thunderbirds to a 1-10 record this year, including 0-8 in Big Sky Conference play. Southern Utah was outscored 432 to 209 through 11 games, with an average score of 39-19. The Thunderbirds ended the season with a 62-0 loss at home to Weber State.

The Thunderbirds play in the Division I-AA Football Championship Subdivision. This was Southern Utah’s last season in the Big Sky Conference, and the team is set to join the Western Athletic Conference in July 2022.

Fitzgerald, though, said his focus right now is not on scores or X’s and O’s. Instead, he said his first priority is building a staff — to include hiring coordinators on offense, defense and special teams, as well as a strength and conditioning coach.

He said he wants players and staff alike to focus on getting “1 percent better” each day in their current areas of responsibility, including in the classroom, weightlifting and study hall.

“We’re gonna learn to win off the field first,” he said.

Fitzgerald said if everyone commits to that approach, they’ll be much better by the time the 2022 season begins.

Fitzerald, 45, has spent the last 22 years coaching football. It is, he said, “a disease.”

Fitzgerald said wakes up each morning and goes to bed each night with football on his mind.

“Outside of my wife and kids, my three beautiful daughters, I don’t think about anything else but football.”

SUU Athletic Director Debbie Corum

Connection to Utah

Had life turned out differently, Fitzgerald might never have coached in Frostburg. No 58 victories over seven winning seasons. No three conference championships. No two Division III playoff appearances (including a bowl game victory). No three conference coach-of-the-year awards.

The coach said his time as a coach at Southern Virginia University, which at the time had a large concentration of Latter Day Saints students, led him to recruiting stops all across Utah.

On one trip, “when I hit Cedar City, I fell in love,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said he looked up then-coach Ed Lamb “and befriended him as fast as I could I tried to get a job here 10 years ago. I have always thought that this university, at the FCS level … can be competitive week in and week out.”

SUU Athletic Director Debbie Corum welcomed Fitzgerald and the start of “a new era” for Thunderbirds football.

Corum said the job vacancy attracted more than 100 applicants. Candidates were vetted and a select few were offered the opportunity to interview by Zoom and, further vetted, in-person on campus.

Corum said that during a 90-minute presentation each aspiring head coach was asked to give, during which applicants laid out their vision for SUU football, she realized she wished she could become an 18-year-old student-athlete and play for Fitzgerald. Corum said others on the interview panel had similar reactions to Fitzgerald’s presentation.



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