Chris Hill

Former Athletic Director, the University of Utah

Just 37 years old when he was appointed Utah’s director of athletics, Dr. Chris Hill led the school’s athletics programs to unprecedented success during his 31-year career from 1987-2018. Before he retired in the spring of 2018, he was the longest actively tenured athletics director at the same school in the nation.

Hill’s most monumental accomplishment was spearheading Utah’s move to the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. In their first seven seasons in the “Conference of Champions,” the Utes won four Pac-12 championships (three in gymnastics and one in baseball) and a South Division co-championship in football. Utah won 10 NCAA team championships under Hill’s directorship (six by the ski team and four by the gymnastics team) and placed second in the nation 16 times. The runner-up finishes included the men’s basketball team, which played in the 1998 national championship game, and a No. 2 final ranking by the football team in 2008 for a 13-0 season and a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Three Hill hires won National Coach of the Year honors: football coaches Urban Meyer (2004) and Kyle Whittingham (2008), and men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus (1998).

Hill changed the face of the University of Utah campus by fundraising for the construction of 16 new intercollegiate athletic facilities, including Rice-Eccles Stadium, Burbidge Athletics Academic Center, McCarthey Family Track & Field Complex, Dumke Family Softball Stadium, Spence & Cleone Eccles Football Center, Sorensen High Performance Center and Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Center among others.

The football team, which had not played in a bowl in the 22 years preceding Hill’s appointment as athletics director, went 14-4 in bowl games during his term. Utah’s other athletic programs also thrived under his leadership. The men’s basketball team played in 15 NCAA Tournaments—advancing to the Sweet 16 six times and the Elite Eight twice. In 1998, the Runnin’ Utes played Kentucky for the NCAA Championship. The women’s basketball team also made 15 NCAA appearances, playing in the Sweet 16 twice and the Elite Eight once. The gymnastics team made 21 NCAA Super Six appearances while qualifying for the NCAA Championships all 31 years with Hill as AD—and the ski team finished first or second in the nation 15 times under his watch.

Hill served on several national boards, including the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee (2004-09), chair of the NCAA Championships/Competition Cabinet (1997-98) and the NCAA Management Council Administrative Committee. He was on NACDA’s executive committee from 2002-06. He received a number of awards, including 2011 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Under Armour West Region Athletic Director of the Year, finalist for the 2011 Athletic Director of the Year by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, 2011 Utah YMCA Man of the Year, 2004 Mountain West Conference’s Commissioner’s Award, 1981 Milton Bennion Fellowship, 1984 Utah Recreation Therapy Association Outstanding Service award and 1996 Utah MS Sportsperson of the Year.

The New Jersey native was inducted into the Jersey Shore Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2001, the National Consortium for Academics and Sports awarded him its Degree Completion and Outreach and Community Service Honor Award.
Hill served in five capacities at the U., starting in 1973-74 as a graduate assistant basketball coach on Bill Foster’s staff. After coaching boys’ basketball at Salt Lake’s Granger High from 1975-79 (he was the 1975 4A Coach of the Year), Hill returned to the U. as an assistant coach to Jerry Pimm (1979-81). From 1983-85, he taught in the University’s special education department before becoming the athletic department’s Crimson Club director (1985-86). In 1987, he was named the director of athletics.

Hill was the executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Utah from 1981-85, during which time he developed a housing project for people with severe physical disabilities.

As an undergraduate, Hill won three letters in basketball at Rutgers and co-captained the 1971-72 team. His bachelor’s degree from Rutgers is in math education (1972). He holds a master’s in education (Utah, 1974), and a Ph.D. in educational administration (Utah, 1982).  He and his wife Kathy (a faculty member in the U.’s Department of Special Education in severe disabilities) have two children and five grandchildren.

 
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