From Bobcat to Thunderbird: Fitzgerald heading west

Frostburg State begins search to replace winningest coach in program history
Thunderbirds went 1-10 this season, 0-8 in conference play

* Thunderbirds football website
* Bobcats football website
* Job opening: Head football coach at FSU
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CEDAR CITY, Utah — After an extensive, nationwide search, DeLane Fitzgerald has been named head football coach at Southern Utah University.

The new leader of the Thunderbirds brings 22 years of college football coaching experience with him to Cedar City, including 13 years as a head coach, and a proven track record of building programs by implementing a winning culture. Fitzgerald comes to Southern Utah by way of Frostburg State University, where he has been the head football coach for the past eight seasons.

An introductory press conference for Fitzgerald will be held Thursday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. MT in the Ballroom at the Sharwan Smith Student Center on the campus of SUU. The press conference is open to the public.

“DeLane’s passion for developing men both on and off the field of play was clear as he progressed through the interview process,” said SUU Director of Athletics Debbie Corum. “I knew we had the right person when one of our student-athletes talked about wanting to run through a brick wall for that man. In my experience, that is the key to having a successful coach. DeLane became familiar with recruiting in the state of Utah when he was the head football coach at Southern Virginia, and since that time he and his family have wanted to move to Southern Utah.  We look forward to welcoming DeLane and his family to Cedar City and eagerly await spring football training with great anticipation.”

DeLane Fitzgerald leaves the Frostburg State University football team as the winningest coach in program history, amassing 62 victories in eight seasons.

After eight seasons with the Bobcats, Fitzgerald leaves Frostburg State as the winningest coach in program history with a total of 62 victories. In 2014, Fitzgerald inherited an FSU program coming off its eighth-consecutive losing season with just 18 wins in eight years. After recording a 4-6 record in his first season as head coach, Fitzgerald led the Bobcats to winning seasons every year, including double-digit wins four times.

Local fans took to Twitter to wish Fitzgerald good luck and offered words of farewell.

“You are getting the best of the best,” wrote Lisa Church. “Prepare for greatness @SUUFB. Our hearts ache in Frostburg, MD, but we sure have been lucky to have Fitz as long as we have.”

“Y’all are getting a great one,” exclaimed former Keyser (W.Va.) High School football coach Sean Biser.

Frostburg State won New Jersey Athletic Conference championships in 2016 and 2018 under Fitzgerald’s leadership and made NCAA Division III playoff appearances in 2017 and 2018. The Bobcats also won a Division III bowl game in 2016. After the 2018 season, Fitzgerald led Frostburg State’s transition to NCAA Division II membership and quickly found success in the form of a Mountain East Conference championship in 2021 with a record of 10-1. Fitzgerald was also a three-time conference coach of the year honoree at FSU.

“I would like to thank Athletic Director Debbie Corum, President Mindy Benson, Senior Associate Athletic Director Jeff Tukuafu and the rest of the hiring committee for the opportunity to be the next head football coach of the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds,” said Fitzgerald. “I have wanted to be a part of SUU and the Cedar City community since my first trip to Southern Utah more than a decade ago. I could not be more excited to get started building a football program that we can all be proud of. We are going to build a sound, consistent football program that has an opportunity to be successful each week based on discipline, hard work, daily improvement, competitive greatness and a determination to finish everything we start.”

Before his historic run at Frostburg State, Fitzgerald spent five years as the head coach at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Va. His teams at SVU progressed every season after going 3-8 in his first year, and finishing with an 8-2 record and No. 1 ranking in the USCAA Coaches Poll in 2013. The Knights have not achieved a winning season since Fitzgerald departed for Frostburg State.

Before taking over as head coach in February of 2009, Fitzgerald spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Southern Virginia. Prior to his time in Buena Vista, Fitzgerald spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tenn. He also spent two years as the special teams coordinator at Tennessee-Martin.

Fitzgerald played football at Potomac State College before transferring and playing his final seasons as a fullback at James Madison University. After leading his team to an Atlantic 10 Conference championship in 1999, Fitzgerald began his coaching career at Bridgton Academy in Maine in 2000 before returning to James Madison as a defensive assistant in 2001.

SUU’s new coach holds a master’s degree in education from Bethel College, a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from James Madison and an associate degree in physical education from Potomac State College.

Joining Fitzgerald in Cedar City is his wife, Kim. The couple has three daughters named Mattie, Afton and Laila.

Fitzgerald will lead Southern Utah football into a new era as the school will become a member of the Western Athletic Conference in July of 2022. The first opportunity to see the Thunderbirds under Fitzgerald’s leadership will be announced in conjunction with the finalization of the 2022 football schedule.

What They’re Saying About Fitzgerald:

“DeLane Fitzgerald is an excellent choice to lead SUU football. I’ve known DeLane for almost 10 years. I’ve watched him build young people into team-oriented, successful individuals. His prior experience as a head coach will serve him well as he tackles this next challenge in his career.”

Ed Lamb, BYU Assistant Head Coach and former SUU Head Coach

“I want to thank Coach Fitzgerald for the work he has done guiding our student-athletes over the last eight years. Under his direction, the Frostburg State football program has not only improved on the field, but off the field as well. I would like to congratulate the Southern Utah community on a great hire and wish them success in future.”

-Troy Dell, Frostburg State University Director of Athletics

“I want to thank Coach Fitzgerald for his eight years of leadership at Frostburg State University.  Not only did he restore a winning tradition at FSU, but he also ensured that his players were successful in life as well as on the field.  During his tenure, the Frostburg State football team was part of the campus and community fabric.  I wish him, his wife, Kim, and daughters, Mattie, Afton and Laila, all the best and success in this new chapter in their lives.”

-Ronald Nowaczyk, Frostburg State University President

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