Fitz Hill to join the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida; Will lead the Spartans f
By becoming a Visiting Scholar, Hill, who also will be a Research Associate at UCF, is leaving the coaching profession after San Jose State University’s final game of the 2004 season. The Spartans host Fresno State in the Western Athletic Conference regular-season finale for both teams, Saturday, November 27, at Spartan Stadium. Game time is 2:00 p.m. (PST).
"No one who has ever talked with Fitz Hill for more than a minute can doubt his dedication to football, the young men who play it, and, since he arrived at San Jose State, his dedication to the university. He gave us some really thrilling moments – beating Illinois in 2002, the win over Rice earlier this year, the Boise State game two weeks ago, and seeing Spartan Stadium overflowing with fans for the 2003 Literacy Classic with Grambling State. The ‘Classic’ was Fitz’s initiative and stemmed from his belief in not just developing athletes, but developing well-rounded student-athletes. We especially appreciated his philosophy, because that is what San Jose State is all about," says San Jose State University interim president Don Kassing.
"We will miss Fitz and the positive energy he brings. We thank him for his years of dedicated service to San Jose State and the inspiration he has provided to so many student-athletes. In all he undertakes down the road, we wish him every success,"
As he finishes his fourth season as San Jose State’s head coach, he is one of five African-Americans who is a head coach at a Division I-A football-playing school. Hill, who also is one of two Division I-A football head coaches to earn a doctoral degree, earned his Ed.D. from the University of Arkansas in 1997 after completing his thesis, "Examining the Barriers to Restricting Employment Opportunities Relative to the Perceptions of African-American Football Coaches at NCAA Division I-A Colleges and Universities." The 40-year-old Hill remains in demand as a national spokesman on the issue of hiring minorities in football head coaching positions at major colleges and universities.
"Dr. Lapchick has presented with me a unique opportunity to continue scholarly work in the general area of race relations in sports. He continues to be a mentor to me in my on-going research on the subject. This opportunity allows me to pursue a book project that has always been a passion of mine and share my research and knowledge with the greatest number of people possible," says Hill, whose college football coaching career began as an assistant coach at Arkadelphia (Ark.) High School in 1987.
"In the context of academia, you can look at my decision as a ‘sabbatical’ from football coaching. Teachers, instructors and professors teach and conduct scholarly research for seven to 10 years and then take a sabbatical. As a coach, I am involved in teaching young men and, after 17 years, it is time for me to take my first sabbatical. After completing my research and book project, I will evaluate whether I desire to coach again."
"When I heard that Dr. Hill was considering leaving coaching, I asked him if he would be interested in joining me in our work at the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. I have admired him for many years as a scholar and teacher as well as a coach. I am so delighted that he will be joining us as he will add real world experience both to our classrooms as well as our research efforts. Dr. Hill is a genuine leader in our nation," says Dr. Lapchick.
At San Jose State University, Hill has a 14-32 win-loss coaching record prior to November 27 game against Fresno State. Under his leadership, the team’s best win-loss record was 6-7 in 2002 marking only the second time since 1993 the Spartans won at least six games in a season. San Jose State defeated Big Ten Conference defending champion University of Illinois as one of four road wins that year. Arguably, the team came within one play in the final game of the season of producing a winning record and earning the school’s first post-season bowl appearance since 1990. Espn.com and The Sporting News lauded the San Jose State coach for generating one of college football’s best "turn-arounds" despite being one of only two Division I-A schools to play 13 games in 13 weeks and travel more than 24,000 miles for nine road games. One of those road games was against Ohio State – the eventual 2002 national champion.
"Without struggle, there is no progress. When I arrived here in December of 2000, there were good things in place, but the foundation was not as strong as it needed to be for the long term. We have made progress in many areas of the football program at San Jose State," says the out-going Spartan coach.
"Next year will be the first time in school history that the Spartan football program can have 85 players on scholarship. It was a gradual building and planning process when I arrived to begin with 60 or so scholarship players in December 2000 and formulate and execute a plan to meet today’s NCAA Division I-A football scholarship requirement. In 2005, San Jose State will have one of its largest senior classes ever and that senior class will be heavily populated by players who have been at the school three or four years. These players are going to be a solid foundation for the next head coach.
"We’ve upgraded facilities for our players, performed well academically and have done everything we could to encourage our players to graduate. We installed a program named, ‘Operation 3.0.’ Our football players have received San Jose State University "Scholar-Athlete" awards 49 times and eight conference "All-Academic" awards in three years. We had the top male student-athlete at the school in record-setting quarterback Scott Rislov in 2002 and 2003. This season, one of our starting defensive tackles, junior Kinji Green, can be San Jose State’s first Academic All-America in football in more than 20 years.
"Our fund-raising efforts contributed to the completion of the Scott Gadway Academic Center and upgrades to the Simpkins Stadium and Koret Athletic Training Centers. We helped San Jose State produce a home sellout for the first time in 13 years, added to the grand opening of Dr. Martin Luther King Library on campus last year with the Literacy Classic, and generated millions of dollars to the local economy. Our players were active in the community contributing hundreds of hours of time to disadvantaged and at-risk youngsters of all cultural and economic backgrounds. Our summer sports camps attracted more than 2,500 kids the last three years, the most for any San Jose State football camp over a comparable time period.
"We’ve set many individual and team records here and even some at the NCAA level, placed 15 players in post-season all-star games, had four of them named ‘Most Valuable’ or ‘Most Outstanding’ and have seen more Spartans continue playing football professionally than in recent years.
"In my mind, the only area where we fell short was in the win-loss column and I realize the significance of winning at the Division I-A level. We’ve had some of the highest scoring wins in San Jose State history. I just wish we could have done it more often for the players, the school, the fans and anyone connected with Spartan football," says Hill, whose teams had five wins in which San Jose State scored 58 or more points. No other Spartan football coach has as many high-scoring wins since the school began playing a "major college" schedule in 1950.
With Hill’s imminent departure, San Jose State University will seek a new head football coach once the school’s director of athletics search is concluded according to interim director of athletics John Glass.
"We are looking forward to a number of quality coaches who will show interest in the San Jose State University football head coaching position. Coach Hill is providing his successor with a very capable senior class and a core of up-and-coming underclassmen. Our timetable for naming the next San Jose State football head coach will be determined after the university’s new director of athletics is on board," says Glass.
San Jose State University –– Fitz Hill, head football coach, resigns effective the end of the 2004 season to become a visiting scholar and research associate at the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sports Management Program and Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.