Coach Hill Honored For Strong Academic Push

Fitz Hill has been the head coach of the Spartan Football team since 2001. Hill is one of the five black football coaches in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division and one of the two coaches in the United States with a doctorate degree. The coach also has a bachelor's degree in communications and in physical education.

Every year, the honor society Phi Kappa Phi selects an outstanding faculty or staff member who it thinks goes above and beyond in encouraging education.

Phi Kappa Phi initiated football coach Fitz Hill on March 5 for promoting a strong commitment to academics.

"Coach Hill is a great man. I encouraged it," said Gus Lease, lecturer and president of the San Jose State University honor society chapter. "It's good to have someone of his caliber, especially here on campus."

Lease said he admires Fitz for pushing the books and for helping young men try to achieve their goals.

"A lot of coaches don't care if players don't achieve," Lease said. "Coach Hill really wants his players to do well. To Hill, it isn't just football - he cares about the individual and wants them to set goals for themselves."

Hill said he received a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1987 from Ouachita Baptist University in his hometown of Arkadelphia, Ark. Hill earned a master's degree from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 1997 and his Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Arkansas in 1997.

His 200-page dissertation was titled "Examining the Barriers Restricting Employment Opportunities Relative of African American Football Coaches at NCAA Division I-A Colleges and Universities." He said it took two years to write.

Hill also served in the U.S. Army for eight months in Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Hill said he feels his goal isn't just to coach young men on the field but also to address students' needs and problems.

"To teach young men the values to do the right thing and make better choices," Hill said. "As an educator, that's my responsibility."

Hill said he is glad to be part of the honor society, and academics have been his primary focus.

He wants to motivate players because he feels that education can change one's life.

"I want my players to know that opportunities came with education," Hill said.

Hill named five key areas he said he uses to evaluate his players and help keep them on track. In addition to athletics and academics, Hill said he helps players develop emotionally, socially and spiritually.

"Students don't develop if you have social or emotional problems," Hill said. "We work on the whole person - we communicate. You have to seek to understand before you can be understood."

Hill has implanted a new educational program for his athletes to inspire them to reach bigger goals. It's called "Operation 3.0."

He said he would like to see everyone on his team earn a 3.0 GPA. He said he rewards the players with T-shirts and by getting to be the first to eat.

"If you get a real low GPA, then you eat last," Hill said. "If you want to eat first, improve your academics."

At weekly team meetings, Hill said he discusses students' academics and tries to look at each individual.

"Our overall average has been a 2.3 since I've been head coach. We recorded the highest GPA in history last spring, a 2.48," Hill said. "I focus on semester retention. If you can retain all that you learn, then you will graduate, and we're at a 70 percent graduation rate."

Some football players praised Hill's commitment to the team.

"He deserves it. He's definitely an inspiration to his players, and he's an intelligent man," junior sociology major Eddie Brown said. "He works and he keeps me on track. I'm trying my best for a 3.0."

Another player said Hill is involved in everything they do and that Hill stresses the importance of school.

"I never experienced a coach anywhere else like him. He really lets you know (that) if you're not taking care of business in the classroom, then you're not on the field," sociology major Larnell Ransom said. "Coach Hill is a great man. He's the best role model."

Lease said, "The coach has really taught his players to be respectful to the faculty and to me. That's part of the 'whole person' that the coach talks about."

As far as next season is concerned, Hill said his job is to win.

"I love my job, and I didn't come here for us not to (win)," Hill said. "I'm involved in every aspect, and it's my job to produce excitement, and I'm not too proud to do anything. I'll beg for my football team. Commitment has no limits.

Whatever it takes - we'll do it."

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