Pat Hill has quietly become a hot name is some (NFL) league circles. NFL teams from the Raiders, Saints, Rams, and the Texans have Hill on their short list of candidates. Thus far only the Texans have officially interviewed him. The Saints have contacted Hill, but have not interviewed the Bulldog head coach. It is still a longshot that Hill will be offered an NFL head coaching job, but if he is, who would be his replacement?
Some fans have been disgruntled about his team's four game losing streak to end the season. Many are frustrated that his teams seem to have a mental breakdown every year. Some have even gone as far as to want Hill fired. WTF? Fire a head coach that wins games, goes to bowl games, graduates players, puts players in the NFL, gets the program new facilities, and improves national exposure. If Hill is such a failure in some eyes, then why is he only one of a handful of college coaches considered to coach in the NFL next year?
I'll admit, Hill isn't the most approachable guy, and an Athletic Director can't dress him up and sell him to boosters. Yet, the guy is a heck of a program builder, and a decent head coach. I might not agree with his philosophy or gameday coaching, but I respect his mantra. Hill is the Fresno State program, and the program is Hill. College football fans across the country know about Fresno State because of Hill's brand of football.
Miami was the arrogant, taunting, trash-talking Juggernaunt under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. BYU was the little Mormon school that just chucked the ball over the field under LaVell Edwards. Florida State was(and is still somewhat today) the shotgun formation Juggernaunt that played the best and beat the best under Bobby Bowden. Notre Dame is the tradition rich Catholic school that is college football no matter who the coach is. Fresno State has become the little guy that just wants to beat the shit out of you no matter when, where, or what?
Hill has had his shortfalls as a coach, but building a very good football program with unmatched integrity is not one of them. What other candidate can come into the program and finish what Hill has started? Hill's dream is to take Bulldog football to the next level. That is not necessarily winning conference titles in the Western Athletic Conference, getting FS to the Bowl Championship Series, or winning a national title. His goal is to have the program ready for the next major change in college football. He has stated winning a national title is his goal. That is pretty far-fetched, but think about it.
College Football underwent a major change in the early 1990's when the Bowl Alliance was implemented for the 1992 season. Prior to 1992 and soon after many conferences had football-related expansions and retractions. History could repeat itself all over again when the current BCS TV contract expires with FOX in 2010. If there is a major shift in Division IA football how could the powers that be exclude a recent national champion? Who cares if a team has won 5, 6, 7, or even 8 WAC titles in a row. It doesn't matter if they can not compete with the best in Division IA.
Fresno State will not win a national title under the current BCS format, and not with Hill's current staff and philosophy, in my opinion. It still is his goal and that mantra is what attracts massive media attention. The collapse at the end of the season made Hill and his program look stupid, but oh well. If Fresno State beats a top 20 Oregon team to start 2006 the media hype will start all over again. Any publicity is good publicity.
The powers that be in college football will look for every way possible to not spread the money around when the time comes. Sun Belt, Mid-American, and WAC schools will be the first on the chopping block. Conference USA, the Mountain West, and Big East will be next. No one knows what will happen. Will there be a playoff? Will Division IA retract once again? Division I split into two separate divisions in 1977 because the bigger schools did not want to share growing television revenue with the smaller schools. By 1981 most of the smaller schools became members of the new Division IAA. Will it happen again in 2010? Will Division IA become two separate divisions or will the smaller DIA schools be forced to become IAA?
Hill knows this move is coming and has had Fresno State as ready as it can be. The Bulldogs have slowly upgraded their facilities, have played the best schedule possible, and play on national TV more than most BCS schools. The nation knows about Fresno State. Losing to the WAC middle-tier teams is not fun, but beating BCS schools is. Can't have your cake and eat it to. It sucks that Hill can not keep his team focused to win the measly WAC. Winning the WAC is important to keep the fans happy and to give the players a championship ring, but that is it. It sucks to be the have nots of college football. Hill knows this and is trying to change the image of Fresno State around the country.
Most people around the country used to associate Fresno State with the "thug" eliminate that surrounded the basketball program under Jerry Tarkanian. That is changing because of what Hill has with the football program. Don't fire the guy because he can't win the WAC. How many WAC titles did Tark win?
Now, who replaces the Hill if he leaves for the NFL?
USC offensive coordinator and former Bulldog Lane Kiffen? Titan offensive coordinator Norm Chow? Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges? Bulldog Assistant head coach John Baxter? Tulsa head coach Steve Kragthorpe? Former UCLA head coach Bob Toledo? Former 49er coach Dennis Erickson? Ohio head coach Frank Solich? Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo? Recent fired Ram head coach and former Fresno State player and assistant Mike Martz? USC defensive line coach and former Bulldog Jethro Franklin? Or?
Out of that bunch, Dennis Erickson is the best candidate. He has built successful programs at Washington State and Oregon State and won a national title at Miami. His niche is the college game, as his two stints in NFL (Seattle and San Francisco) were far from stellar. To top it off he was an assistant at Fresno State in the mid-1970s under Jim Sweeney. But.........he comes with a price. Not his salary, but his program's integrity. Erickson is known to recruit that "questionable" player. There is no doubt the Bulldogs will win and continue to be a national name under Erickson, but when he leaves there could be some major cleaning up.
That is why if Hill leaves I would like to see Jethro Franklin get the nod, but on two conditions. The first is to continue Hill's mantra and build the program for the long haul. The second is a little more difficult. If Franklin leaves USC, hopefully he could bring along quarterback coach/co-offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian has been sharing play-calling duties with Kiffen at USC and is ready to handle the gig himself. Sarkisian set a NCAA record for completion percentage at Bulldog Stadium in 1995 as quarterback for BYU in their 45-28 win. Sarkisian, an Armenian, said before the game he was nervous because he would be playing in front of large amount of Armenians in Fresno. His Armenian decent could only help the program's growth considering Fresno has the third largest popoluation of Armenians in the nation behind LA and Boston. But the big question, is Fresno willing or ready to hire a Black head coach? It freakin 2006 and in no fuckin way should this be an issue, but it will be? Who gives a shit what color the coach is, as long as he can do the job.
On a seperate political rant. I hate affirmative action, and I'm a beaner. It doesn't go both ways. If the NFL wants more Black head coaches, shouldn't it equally want more White running backs? As a person of color you will never be respected when given a position of power. Was it earned based on merit or color? As MLK's birthday approaches, the nation will ponder his dream and how far a America has come, but has it really? Enough with the politcal bullshit, Go 'Dogs, and hope Hill is around for the next decade.