Hill named SIU head football coach

By Daily Egyptian staff

Saluki Athletics on Wednesday announced Nick Hill will be SIU’s next head football coach.

Hill replaces Dale Lennon, who was fired Nov. 30 after eight years with the Dawgs and a 51-42 record. Hill was named interim head coach the following day.

Hill, the youngest head football coach in the Missouri Valley Conference, signed a three-year contract worth $175,000 annually, plus incentives.



Tommy Bell, director of athletics, said it became clear to him during the coaching search that Hill was the best candidate to restore the legacy of SIU football. Bell selected Hill on Friday.

“Nick Hill understands how Saluki football was built for success because he was a part of it,” Bell said during Wednesday’s press conference. “He helped build and shape it.”

The 2004-07 Saluki quarterback returned in 2014 as quarterbacks coach. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator before this season, while retaining duties of quarterbacks coach. The offense averaged 498.1 yards per game this year and led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense and scoring offense.

Hill, a 30-year-old DuQuoin native, graduated from SIU in 2007.

Before returning to SIU, Hill coached Carbondale Community High School’s football team in 2013, played in the Arena Football League and signed contracts with the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.

Hill said he always felt as if he had an entire region behind him when he was a player, and he wants to give back and make southern Illinois proud. 

“I feel like I’m the only person that could sit up here and say that this is truly a dream come true,” Hill said. “It truly is my dream job and I’m grateful for this opportunity.” 

Hill set the single-season passing yard, completion percentage and passing touchdown records in 2007 with 3,175, 71.5 percent and 28, respectively. He played for Jerry Kill, who was a member of the head coach search advisory committee. 

SIU Board of Trustees member Joel Sambursky — who proceeded Hill as SIU’s quarterback from 2002-05 and was coached by Kill — was also on the search committee. 

Hill said he would like to bring Kill — who retired as the University of Minnesota’s head coach in October — and former running back Brandon Jacobs back to be a part of the team.

Hill said Jacobs, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants, is his biggest recruiting draw to the university. 
“They are definitely going to be a part of the team,” Hill said of Kill and Jacobs. “They’re going to be part of Saluki nation. They’re going to be welcomed into that locker room and our team will know them.”
Hill said he does not know if they will be back as part of the nine-man coaching roster, but said the two will be around more than speaking to the team once a year.
“I promise you Nick Hill will work day and night because he doesn’t want to let anyone down,” Kill said in a news release before the press conference. “Guys work better with a little chip on their shoulder. When I came there I had a little chip and I surrounded myself with great staff, and he’ll do the same thing.”
Hill said he will hire a new defensive coordinator for this season. The Saluki defense allowed the most total yards and second most passing yards in SIU history last season.
David Elson served in the position last year as well as the recruiting coordinator. Last season was his first full season as defensive coordinator after moving from secondary coach to defensive coordinator during the 2013 season.
He will also hire a new offensive coordinator, but will still control play-calling.
The search committee also interviewed former University of Minnesota offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, former Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and Syracuse running backs coach DeAndre Smith. 
Hill becomes one of the youngest head football coaches in Division I athletics. When asked about his age during the press conference, Hill said: “I told the committee if I thought 30 was a negative thing … I wouldn’t apply for the job.”

Hill takes over a Saluki squad that went 3-8 this season and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year. Lennon led the Salukis to MVFC titles in 2008 and 2009, but went 31-37 in the following six seasons.

After getting his SIU coaching opportunity from Lennon, Hill said all previous coaches feel partially responsible for Lennon’s firing.

“There is no one that wanted to win more for Coach Lennon than me,” he said. “It wasn’t all just Coach Lennon. Sometimes it needs a change and it meant a lot to me that Coach Lennon wanted me to get this job. If we win next year, it’s not just all because of me. The foundation is there. You lose as a team and you win as a team, and that’s how it is with a staff too.”

Brent Meske, Anna Spoerre, Austin Miller, Evan Jones and Luke Nozicka contributed reporting.