September 19, 2001
Dr. Fitz Hill
Fitz Hill carries a focused determination with him at all times. The 37-year-old native of Arkadelphia, Ark., is the new head football coach at San José State University. He is one of five African-American head coaches of among the country’s 115 NCAA Division I-A football programs.
***THE FAMILY INFLUENCE***
Growing up in a town of roughly 10,000 located on the Interstate-30 drive to Dallas and is an hour southwest of the state capital of Little Rock, Hill’s life began as the youngest of James and Mary Hill’s three boys. His dad was a production manager at the local beverage company and mom was a registrar at Arkadelphia High School. Older brother, Kenny, was a master sergeant in the Air Force before he passed away in 1997. Shawn, the middle son in the family, graduated from the University of Arkansas and is a claims manager for Allstate Insurance Company in Dallas.
Hill’s youth was a blend of sports of all kinds, a mom who "ruled the house," a dad whom he says was his best friend and a Christian foundation with Methodist and Baptist roots. "Mom wouldn’t let me play if I didn’t go to church. We knew we would be in church all day Sunday and Wednesday. Church always took precedence," remembers Hill who sang in the church choir and served as superintendent of the Sunday school program. "Church was a mainstay in our life."
"My mother’s favorite quote was, ‘Never let your name beat you home.’ She was very active with college students. I think I picked up my mentorship or relationship with college students from my mother," the new Spartan coach says of his mother who resides in Berkeley, Calif. "It’s easy to say I wouldn’t be who I am today without the parents I had at home. I had the nurturing, the care, someone who promoted education at home at an early age, someone who promoted career development and supported me through athletics.
"My dad always was at my football practices and my games to support me. Knowing that was very comforting. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but our family was very close and together."
***A SKILLED ATHLETE***
Keeping up with his older brothers helped Hill develop his athletic skills at an early age. He was a three-sport star in high school who could dunk a basketball as a 6-foot-1 guard. Hill was voted his team’s “Most Valuable Player” in basketball and track and field and captain of the football team. Showing early signs of leadership, he was a class president and two-time student council president at Arkadelphia High School.
After a year at Northeast Louisiana University, he returned to Arkadelphia, majored in journalism and starred in football at Ouachita Baptist University. He was an all-conference, all-district and All-American wide receiver his junior and senior seasons at Ouachita Baptist.
***SERVING HIS COUNTRY***
It wasn’t a straight line into a coaching career that started at his local high school in 1987. His dad died in 1983 and after his mother suffered a stroke six weeks later, Hill was pretty much on his own. To augment his college football scholarship, he joined the Army ROTC making $100 a month with the opportunity to earn additional cash serving in the reserves. "Initially, it was more for money than it was for duty. They were paying me early and I had to pay them later by serving in the war. It turned out good. I was trying to supplement my income because I couldn’t call home and ask anybody for money," says Hill, who was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1987.
The war turned out to be Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. A decorated soldier, he received a Bronze Star and U.S. Army Commendation Medals among his achievements for his nine months of active military service in 1990 and 1991.
"The military taught me to stay focused on what’s best for the program. It taught me the principle of values. The most important is that it taught me discipline. That’s the key word the military taught me," he remembers. "To know that sometimes you have to do without in order to do for what’s best for the big picture."
***SUCCESSFUL IN BUSINESS***
Hill was a busy man during his college days. He needed to stay focused on his goals and objectives with all that was going on in his life.
He managed a shoe repair store, “The Quality Shoe Store,” in Arkadelphia from 1983 through 1987. For 10 years beginning in 1986, he opened and then managed a local coin laundry business. The laundromat was under the umbrella of his company, “Hill to the Third Power, Inc.,” headquartered in Arkadelphia. A real estate development business also is part of the company.
***A CAREER IN COACHING***
The desire to be a coach first hit him after visiting his mother in Northern California in 1984. The 20-year-old was driving home through the Arizona desert. "I was given a tape for Christmas because I drove out here. The tape I was given was by Grant Teaff (former Baylor University football coach and the current executive director of the American Football Coaches Association) on ‘How to be a Winner.’ When I put that tape in there, he talked about the impact coaches have on people, specifically, young men. Coaches have more influence on young men than bankers, lawyers, preachers. Coaches are the most influential people for young men," remembers Hill, who once wanted to be either a radio or television sports producer. "As I was traveling across the desert, the Lord placed it on my heart that the way he can use me to serve in a mission field was through coaching."
Military service briefly interrupted his coaching career. He had his master’s degree in student personnel services from Northwestern State University in Louisiana in hand and three seasons of progressive coaching experiences before serving his country.
When the 1992 season was over, he was a fixture on the University of Arkansas staff. Through three different head coaches and four post-season bowl appearances over the next eight seasons, the one constant on-the-field presence was assistant coach Fitz Hill.
“Fitz has been an integral part of our football program for the past decade. He has done an outstanding job as both wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. It is always tough to lose quality people, but sooner or later, we knew that Fitz would be a head coach,” said University of Arkansas director of athletics Frank Broyles at the time Hill was named head coach at San José State.
***A NOTED EXPERT***
In his 15th year as a coach, Hill has witnessed first-hand the progress and lack of progress by African-Americans in college football coaching. His dissertation topic for his Ed.D., “Examining the Barriers Restricting Employment Opportunities Relative to the Perceptions of African American Football Coaches at NCAA Division I-A Colleges and Universities,” has been a basis for articles and stories on ESPN and by the national educational and sports print publications.
“Until it’s not a problem, then there is no need to address it,” says Hill, who cites former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson and current Temple University men’s basketball coach John Chaney as two of his role models in the coaching profession.
***FAMILY AND FAITH***
A father of two daughters, Destiny and Faith, and an infant son, Justice, he lived alone in the San Jose area until his wife, Cynthia, completed her doctoral degree in human resource management also at the University of Arkansas in August 2001. The Hill family moved to California in July.
"We know God controls our destiny, in him we trust our faith and we know he will demand justice for our family," explains the new Spartan football coach about the names of his children. "My relationship with God, my family and my job are my priorities in my life. My players are an extension of my family and I know that because I understand the nexus of my profession. Spartan football is part of my family as well as my wife and my kids because they feed my family and I’ll never forget that."
***A VISION FOR SAN JOSE STATE FOOTBALL ***
"I want this football program to be perceived as ‘up close and personal,’" says Hill. "I want to be very community-service oriented and hope to develop programs for socially disadvantaged kids which again as a coach goes back to doing a ministry and reach out to those less fortunate.
“For our players, we want to develop the ‘whole’ student-athlete. That means academically, athletically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.”
2001 San José State University head coach
2000 University of Arkansas assistant head coach,
recruiting coordinator, wide receivers coach
1998-99 University of Arkansas recruiting coordinator, wide receivers coach
1992-97 University of Arkansas wide receivers coach
1992 (spring) Utah State University wide receivers coach
1990-91 University of Arkansas volunteer assistant
1990 (spring) Northwestern State (La.) quarterbacks coach, receivers coach
1989 University of Arkansas graduate assistant
1988 Northwestern State (La.) graduate assistant
1987 Arkadelphia (Ark.) High School assistant coach
B.A. (communications) – Ouachita Baptist University, 1987
B.A. (physical education) – Ouachita Baptist University, 1987
M.A. (student personnel services) – Northwestern State (La.) University, 1991
Ed.D. (higher education) – University of Arkansas, 1997
1988 New England Patriots free agent camp
1986 All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, NAIA All-District 17,
1985 All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, NAIA All-District 17,
1984-86 Ouachita Baptist University wide receiver
1982 Northeast Louisiana University wide receiver
African-American NCAA Division I-A head football coaches in 2001
Head Coach School
Tyrone Willingham Stanford University
Tony Samuel New Mexico State University
Bobby Williams Michigan State University
Jerry Baldwin University of Louisiana-Lafayette
Dr. Fitz Hill San José State University
National Football League
Minority Fellowship Program
1999 Dallas Cowboys pre-season camp
1998 Miami Dolphins coaching excellence seminar
1993 Tampa Bay Buccaneers pre-season camp
1990-91 Operation Desert Shield and Storm, Saudi Arabia
1990 Surface Deployment Planning Course, Fort Eustis, Virginia
1988 United States Army Officers Basic Course, Fort Eustis, Virginia
1987 R.O.T.C. Camp, Fort Riley, Kansas – commissioned 2nd lieutenant
1987 Arkansas National Guard, Camp Robinson, Arkansas
1986-1990 United States Army Reserve,
321st Material Management Center, El Dorado, Arkansas
Military Awards & Honors
1991 Bronze Star for Military Service in Operation Desert Storm
1991 U.S. Army Commendation Medal for military service
in Operation Desert Shield & Storm
1991 Kuwait Liberation Medal, Operation Desert Storm
1991 Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal for service
in Operation Desert Shield & Storm
1991 Southwest Asia Service Medal for service in Operation Desert
Shield & Storm
2001 NCAA Division I-A Head Coaches with Doctorate Degrees
Coach School Degree Institution, Year
Fitz Hill San José State University Ed.D. Arkansas, 1997
Mike Leach Texas Tech University J.D. Pepperdine, 1986
Rick Neuheisel University of Washington J.D. USC, 1990
Talk about Fitz Hill
“I think this is a great opportunity for him and I’m confident that he will make the most of it. What may not be so obvious from the outside is the strong relationship he develops with his players. His influence is credited again and again by his players. All six of his senior wide receivers in 1999 finished their degrees along with their eligibility. As a recruiting coordinator, he used his imagination and intuitive knowledge of young players to develop a strong and effective recruiting program at Arkansas. He will be difficult to replace, but he has established a strong foundation for the next coordinator to build on.” – Frank Broyles, University of Arkansas athletics director
“We are very proud of him. We are going to miss him. He has done a great job for the University of Arkansas. because of these players and this program, he is able to take a head (coaching) job. He has been here the longest of any of our assistants and has done a great job....He didn’t think it would happen this quick. He had in mind he would be here two more years. They (San José State) pursued him pretty hard and offered him a good package and he was ready to go.” – Houston Nutt, University of Arkansas head football coach
“Fitz was a very likeable and personable young man. He and Cynthia were a super couple with the greatest attitudes. They would help out wherever they could help our program succeed. He (Fitz) was a fierce competitor.” – Ken Hatfield, Rice University head football coach and former University of Arkansas head football coach
“Hill deserves some of the credit for those sure-handed (Arkansas) receivers, who invariably seem to get the most from their ability....He (Hill ) is one of the best-educated coaches in the SEC. He has a degree in communications and physical education from Ouachita Baptist, a master of arts degree from Northwestern (La.) State and a doctorate in higher education from Arkansas.” – John Adams, Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 20, 2000
“Fitz Hill was going to be a head coach, and the fact that it is now isn’t surprising. It’s just a year or two earlier than most expected.” – Wally Hall, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 12, 2000
“San José hired him knowing he was a spokesperson for more opportunities for black coaches...I am going to be rooting hard for San José State next year so that Coach Dr. Hill can continue to ask such questions and get real answers. Maybe then the history of racial hiring practices in college football will change. I know he shares that dream with hundreds of black assistant coaches waiting on the sidelines for their chance.” – Dr. Richard E. Lapchick, Northeastern University Sport in Society, April 10, 2001
Published Works by Dr. Fitz Hill
“Examining the Barriers to Restricting Employment Opportunities Relative to the Perceptions of African AMerican Football Coaches at NCAA Division I-A Colleges and Universities,” University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Ed.D. thesis, 1997.
“Promotion on merit an illusion for Blacks,” NCAA News, November 24, 1997.
“The Status of Blacks as Major College Football Coaches,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, written in conjunction with John Murry, Winter 1997/1998.
“Escaping Bump-and-Run Coverage at the Line of Scrimmage,”
American Football Quarterly, Volume 4, 4th quarter, 1998-99
“Razorbacks Turn Around Fortunes,” Championship Performance, Volume 3,
Issue 35, September 1999