WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Griffith grad Bill Fritz

2013-07-01T19:00:00Z 2014-08-21T18:25:16Z WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Griffith grad Bill FritzMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
July 01, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

Bill Fritz can still remember a catch he made, but it was ruled he didn't make on the Griffith football field on Nov. 9, 1963.

The Panthers were playing Calumet Conference Northern Division champ Calumet. Griffith won the South Division with a 4-0-1 mark and the two were playing for the outright conference championship.

"Somehow, the clock ran from 1 minute and 32 seconds to 10 seconds (left)," Fritz said. "Brad DeReamer, our quarterback, hit me in the end zone with the game-winner, but it was ruled the clock ran out before we got the play off. It was a touchdown."

But it didn't count as the game ended in a 7-7 tie.

The Panthers finished at 8-0-2 and were ranked 19th in the state in the final Associated Press poll.

"It was the first time Griffith had been ranked," said Fritz, who went on to star at Wisconsin. "We had a great team, great bunch of guys and an outstanding young coach in Tom Kurth."

Kurth went on to more success at Elkhart Central and is in the Indiana Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

The 1964 Griffith grad can almost play out every game from that magical season. The Panthers opened with a 19-7 win at Bishop Noll, a team that included Times Athlete of the Year Mike McGill. They also salvaged a 20-20 tie with Lowell and defeated Crown Point 46-7 in what was a battle of unbeatens.

Fritz set the tone against the Bulldogs.

"I took the opening kickoff back for a score and we were on our way," Fritz said. "We did everything right that night."

The Times article read: "Big Bill Fritz grabbed the opening kickoff on the first bounce and dashed 75 yards and if, the scoreboard clock showing seven seconds was right, it was the fastest 75 yards ever run on a football field."

Fritz can still remember a catch he made in 1967 for Wisconsin against Ohio State.

"I got tackled on the Ohio State sideline, right in front of Woody Hayes," he recalled. "He had a few epitaphs for me. I will never forget it. We almost beat them."

The Buckeyes won 17-15, and it was just part of a frustrating 0-9-1 season Wisconsin suffered through.

"It was tough because we lost a lot of close ones," Fritz said. "It was frustrating. We tied Iowa, but lost six games by a total of 25 points."

That included a 14-11 loss to the Rose Bowl-bound Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.

"We were on their 2-yard line with 20 seconds left and we couldn't score," Fritz said. "We score, they don't go to the Rose Bowl."

Fritz also played against current Wisconsin athletic director and former football coach Barry Alvarez when the Badgers faced Nebraska. The Conrnhuskers also had Bishop Noll grad and current Calumet football coach Ivan Zimmer.

"We played Colorado in 1965, and guess who covered me?" Fritz said. "It was Hale Irwin. What an athlete he was and just think about what he did on the golf course."

He was a co-captain his senior year and was honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. He said the highlight was catching nine passes against USC in an early-season loss as the Badgers were 5-22-1 in his three years on the varsity.

Several major league teams were interested in him as well as several colleges for baseball and football. He narrowed it down to Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Indiana and Michigan.

"I had three criteria: the school had to have a good academic standing; it had to have a nice campus; and it had to have a winning tradition," Fritz said. "Wisconsin had gone to two Rose Bowls in five years. Indiana was not that good, Notre Dame was struggling until Ara Parseghian came and Michigan was down, by that, I mean down by Michigan standards.

"So what happens, Wisconsin struggles, Notre Dame wins a national championship (1966), IU goes to the Rose Bowl and Michigan becomes a power."

Fritz got his degree in business and had a successful career as an analyst, portfolio manager and as a chief investment officer for a local bank. He now consults for smaller companies.

"It is rewarding because I have helped people whether it is investing or helping a new company start up," Fritz said. "I have really enjoyed that aspect."

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