Part 1: Hill Builds Program With Strong Foundation
July 1, 2006
A decade-long coaching tenure is rare today's world of intercollegiate football. The number of coaches who can claim that distinction is smaller than one would think.
In today's ever-change instant gratification world, one has to have thick skin, a supportive administration, or an extremely solid belief commitment toward building a program to stay at one school that long.
Entering his tenth season as Fresno State's head football coach, there's no question that Pat Hill has all three.
Hill has built the program on three distinct principles: developing Fresno State as the Valley's team; Recruiting Valley High School Football Players and resurrecting Fresno State's academic reputation; winning by playing a tough, major college football schedule.
In this first of a three part series, we take a look at how Hill has embraced the Valley over the past decade with the use of the Green V on the football helmets and his work to bring Valley fans together. A decade later after arriving as Fresno State's head coach, Hill's commitment to Fresno State and the Valley remains constant.
PART I: Stability is the Key to Building the Valley's Team
While offers to leave have come his way, Hill has always said he wants to make the grass greener at Fresno State rather than seek greener grass elsewhere. He's a man of his word. Taking the model of long-time successful coaches like Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Frank Beamer, Hill continues to charge ahead with the same enthusiasm and vision as when we was hired 10 years ago.
Hill has the longest coaching tenure of any WAC coach, with two full seasons more at Fresno State than Jack Bicknell of Louisiana Tech and June Jones at Hawaii. After that, no other WAC coach has been in their position for more than three consecutive years. Since Hill got his first head coaching job at Fresno State in 1997, there have been 15 head coaching changes among the rest of the WAC schools.
Of coaches in the West, only Mike Bellotti of Oregon has been at the same school longer. The coach with the longest tenure in the Big 12 Conference is Iowa State's Dan McCarney at 12 years. No other coach in that league has been there as long as Pat Hill has been at Fresno State. Three different coaches have been at Stanford in the time Hill's been at Fresno State.
Dennis Franchione, a former WAC coaching opponent of Hills, has changed schools twice (Alabama and Texas A&M) since the two coaches last met each other on the field in 2000. The same for Dennis Erickson, a former Bulldog assistant coach, who held coaching jobs with the San Francisco 49ers and Idaho, since he coached against the Bulldogs in the 2002 season.
While longevity in today's ever changing world of intercollegiate athletics is to be admired, so too is the type of program that Hill has built. With an unwavering commitment toward academic accountability and excellence, recruiting high school student-athletes with a primary emphasis on the San Joaquin Valley high schools, and playing as tough a non-conference schedule as anyone in the nation, this formula for success has become a model admired by many.
"Pat Hill has built a program that should be applauded," said ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., noted NFL Draft expert. "When you look at what he's done over time and the quality of the players he's produced, it's phenomenal. To do it at a school like Fresno State that doesn't have a lot of built in advantages of other schools makes it even more impressive."
Hill was the only sitting college coach to be interviewed for the recent NFL head coaching vacancies, which is a testament to the respect and his NFL background.
At the end of the day, Hill knew Fresno State is where he wanted to be and that his goals had not yet been achieved. He agreed to a five-year contract extension to remain the Dogs head man.
"To play in Division I football, our goal is - and should be - to win a national championship," Hill said. "Some people don't like me saying that, but why shouldn't we aspire to be the best? Why not us? Playing in a BCS game or for the national championship should be the goal of every team. If you don't set your goals high enough, you will never be able to know what you can achieve."
Hill's blue-collar style and bold talk has brought a lot of attention to the program and the Valley. No one waves the Valley's flag higher than the Bulldog coach. He's proud of where he lives and his community. Hill works daily with the agricultural community to bring them on board.
The San Joaquin Valley, which has been described both as the "New California" and the "nation's breadbasket", is the World's richest agricultural region. With the approximate size of the state of Tennessee and stretching from Bakersfield to Sacramento, the Valley his home to nearly five million residents. Fresno State is the educational, research and entertainment center for Valley and the agricultural community. The Bulldogs are the only Division I-A team in the Valley.
Approximately 65 percent of the players on the Fresno State football team come from Valley high schools.
"The Valley is a great place to live and raise a family," Hill said. "We have great school systems and a great university to further educate our children. We have a great quality of life in the Valley which offers a lot of opportunity for people of all ages. As a focal point, we want our football program, which as I've always said is only the porch light for a university, to be a bright light that brings pride and attention to the Valley. We have made great strides in creating relationships with residents of the Valley and will continue to reach out."
Hill's staff is a symbol of that stability. While some assistant coaches have moved on to better opportunities in the NFL or other college coaching jobs, in general the staff has been incredibility consistent. Defensive coordinator Dan Brown and Associate Head Coach John Baxter have been with Hill since the beginning, each turning down other opportunities to stay at Fresno State. The average stay for all assistant coaches under Hill has been five years, a very good figure for a non-BCS conference school.
That coaching consistency and the retention of football players have created a trusting relationship between players and coaches.
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Join the State - Fresno State! Get tickets online 24/7 at www.gobulldogs.com or by calling the Bulldog Ticket Office (559-278-DOGS), Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Ticket Office is located at the south entrance of the stadium off Bulldog Lane. Fresno State's 2006 home schedule- which kicks off Sept. 1 against Nevada- features opponents such as Oregon, Colorado State, Hawai'i, New Mexico State and Idaho.