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Better Know an AD Candidate: Utah's Chris Hill

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This post is the continuation in a series (see Peter_G's fine post on Baylor's Ian McCaw here) exploring possibilities for the new AD position at Clemson. Dr. Chris Hill is an impressive potential candidate for Clemson's AD position. I'm not sure if he is a candidate or if he would even be interested but I think he should absolutely be on the search list (especially if this is a truly nation-wide search). His entire career has been spent at this one place, however, so we need to keep that in mind when looking at his credentials.

  • Hired at the age of 37 as AD for the University of Utah in 1987. He has also been the Assistant to the President since 1998. He is 52 now. He played basketball at Rutgers and was a high school coach in Utah before working his way up in their athletic department.
  • One of five 2011 finalists for the prestigious Sports Business Award for Athletic Director of the Year by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. He was also the 2011 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Under Armour West Region Athletic Director of the Year.
  • He has hired three coaches who became a National Coach of the Year in their sport: football coaches Urban Meyer (2004) and Kyle Whittingham (2008), and men's basketball coach Rick Majerus (1998). Meyer was certainly a great hire and Whittingham was a great follow-up. He has hired some duds in basketball over the years, however.
  • Has been at the helm for two BCS bowl wins, nine NCAA team championships (four by the gymnastics team and five by the ski team) and NCAA runner-up finishes in men's basketball (1998), football (2008) , gymnastics (2000, 2006, 2007, 2008) and skiing (seven total). The 11-4 bowl record and 2 BCS wins are especially impressive.

The other big achievement is obviously getting Utah into the Pac-12. He deserves a lot of credit for jumping at the opportunity, as Utah was one of the major winners in the most recent round of expansion. I like an AD who isn't afraid to make the big decisions on conference expansion. He has hired a bunch of great coaches over the years, especially when you are in the Mountain West, and he seems to be a good evaluator of coaching talent. Its frustrating to think that a school like Utah has more BCS bowl berths and wins (2) than Clemson.

Another big decision that has ruffled some feathers at Utah is Hill's decision to suspend their rivalry with BYU for two years in favor of playing Michigan. While none of us wants to see our rivalry with South Carolina suspended for anything, Hill will make decisions that he thinks will move the program forward. He is getting a lot of heat for this decision and may be feeling a bit under-valued right now. This could be an opportunity for a change of scenery for him after 25 years (there is no evidence to support this, pure wishful speculation). The one bonus that Clemson can offer is a substantial pay increase. Hill currently gets paid 400,000 at Utah and TDP gets 600,000 (USAToday) so we can throw that at him.

What are some potential red flags or drawbacks? Dr. Hill has been at Utah his whole career so we don't really know how he might adapt to a new environment. It would be nice if he had at least one more stop on the resume where he has been able to lead a program. It is hard to get a beat on his prowess as a fundraiser. One of the important criteria for this job is someone who can get after it in fundraising and I'm not sure we have enough evidence to say much right now. He has built facilities during his tenure and recently announced building a new Football center and sports medicine area that is described in the video below but, again, tough to say how much credit he actually should get. He is certainly competent, articulate, and deserves to be in the conversation.