Fritz led Tulane to one of the best stretches in school history, as the Green Wave have reached a bowl game in five of the past six seasons and have gone 23-4 the past two years. Prior to his arrival, Tulane went to one bowl game from 2003 to 2015.
"No one in the country has been better at leading and developing student-athletes than Willie Fritz," Houston athletic director Chris Pezman said in a statement. "Over his more than three-decades of head coaching experience, he has guided several football programs to historic success."
Offensive coordinator Slade Nagle is set to serve as Tulane's interim coach, sources told ESPN.
Fritz led Tulane to the American Athletic Conference title last year, and the Green Wave lost to SMU in the title game Saturday. His signature win at Tulane came in the Cotton Bowl after the 2022 season, a scintillating 46-45 victory over quarterback Caleb Williams and USC.
Fritz will replace Dana Holgorsen, who was fired after three losing seasons in five years. Holgorsen finished with a 31-28 record and is due a $14.8 million buyout, which is subject to mitigation.
Fritz said in a statement that he was "humbled and honored" for the opportunity to coach at Houston.
"There is no ceiling for success, with the incredible fan support, excellent facilities, talented young men and a collective desire to compete for championships," Fritz said. "We will build a program that all Coogs can be proud of, and I cannot wait to see the results."
Fritz has extensive experience coaching in Texas, as he worked at Sam Houston State in three separate stints, as well as in the high school ranks and as a junior college coach at Blinn.
He has been a head coach since 1993 and has experienced success at every level. That includes two juco national titles at Blinn and postseason appearances at Central Missouri, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern and Tulane.
Houston is facing a steep climb after posting a 2-7 Big 12 record in its first season in the conference, with one win coming improbably in the final seconds against West Virginia. The Cougars lost to crosstown rival Rice and dropped the final three games of the season against Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and UCF.