Jesse Terrill Hill (January 20, 1907 – August 31, 1993) was an American athlete, coach and college administrator who was best known for his tenure as a coach and athletic director at the University of Southern California. His career spanned six decades. He played as an outfielder in Major League Baseball from 1935 to 1937, coached two national championship teams in track and field, and went on to become the first person to both play for and coach Rose Bowl champions.
Early life and collegiate athletic career
Hill was born in Yates, Missouri, and moved with his family to Corona, California, as a boy, attending Corona High School and Riverside City College. After transferring to USC, he earned letters in football, track, and baseball. He played as a running back for the 1928 national championship team, and was a senior on the 1929 team that went on to win the 1930 Rose Bowl, leading the Pacific Coast Conference with an average of 8.2 yards per carry. As a junior he won the national title in the broad jump at the IC4A meet on June 1, 1929 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, with a jump of 25 feet 7/8 inch, breaking the intercollegiate record by 2½ inches. He also won a baseball conference batting championship with a .389 average as a senior in 1930.
Career as a professional athlete
After graduation, Hill signed a baseball contract with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, and hit a home run against the crosstown Los Angeles Angels in his first professional at bat. His contract was sold to the New York Yankees in January 1932, and he reached the major leagues as a left fielder in 1935, batting .293 in 107 games. On September 22 of his rookie year, he barely lost to Ben Chapman in a 75-yard promotional race held before a game with the Boston Red Sox . In January 1936 he was traded to the Washington Senators, and he hit .305 in a reserve role. After beginning 1937 with a .217 average in 33 games, and switching to center field, he was sent to the Philadelphia Athletics, and hit .293 over the rest of the year. Afterwards he was sent to the Oakland Oaks of the PCL, where he played two more years. Over his major league career, Hill batted .289 with 6 home runs, 175 runs, 108 runs batted in, 277 hits and 43 stolen bases.
Hill began his coaching career at California high schools and colleges during baseball offseasons. He joined the Navy during World War II, and was discharged in 1946 as a lieutenant commander; during the war he worked with USC athletic director Willis O. Hunter in the Navy's V-5 (aviation cadet) program, and Hunter hired him in 1946 to coach freshman football and track. Hill was an assistant coach on USC's 1947 Rose Bowl team.
Hill became USC's head track coach in 1949–1950, succeeding Dean Cromwell, and won national titles in both years. He returned for one season as track coach in 1962 after the sudden death of Jess Mortensen. He became the football coach from 1951 to 1956, with his teams posting a record of 45–17–1, including Rose Bowl appearances after the 1952 and 1954 seasons. His 1952 squad finished the year ranked fifth in the nation with a 10–1 record, outscoring their opponents 254-47 and leading the nation in scoring defense at 4.7 points per game; the only loss was a 9-0 contest at Notre Dame which ended the regular season. In the Rose Bowl, USC defeated Wisconsin 7-0; it was the only time between 1947 and 1959 that the Pacific Coast Conference champion beat the Big Ten champion. Hill's 1954 team lost the Rose Bowl to Ohio State, 20-7. During his tenure, Hill's players included Frank Gifford, Rudy Bukich, Jim Sears and Jon Arnett. For the 1956 season opener at Texas, Hill made the decision to change hotels after discovering that USC's integrated team could not stay at the segregated Austin hotel that had been booked; USC went on to win the game 44-20 as fullback C. R. Roberts, an African American, ran for a school-record 251 yards. USC ended the year with wins over UCLA and Notre Dame, the only time in his six years that they won both games.
Hill stepped down from his football post to become USC's athletic director from 1957–1972, during which period the university won 29 team national championships: eight tennis titles (1958, 1962–64, 1966–69) under coach George Toley; six College World Series titles (1958, 1961, 1963, 1968, 1970–71) under coach Rod Dedeaux; six track titles (1958, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967–68) under coaches Jess Mortensen and Vern Wolfe; five swimming titles (1960, 1963–66) under coach Peter Daland; two football titles (1962, 1967) under coach John McKay; one indoor track title (1967) under coach Vern Wolfe; and one gymnastics title (1962) under coach Jack Beckner. Hill then became commissioner of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, retiring in 1978.
Hill died at age 86 in Pasadena, California, of complications of Alzheimer's disease and buried at the Sunnyslope Cemetery in Corona. He had one daughter and one son, and grandchildren. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in its second class in 1995.
Football head coaching record
|USC Trojans (Pacific Coast Conference) (1951–1956)|
|1952||USC||10-1||6-0||1st||W 7-0 Rose Bowl||4||5|
|1954||USC||8-4||6-1||2nd||L 7-20 Rose Bowl||11||17|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|†Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
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- Taylor, James A. (ed.), ed. (1932). Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America: Souvenir Volume of Annual Championship Meetings of 1929–1932. p. 366.
- "Legendary Coaches". A Century of Troy 1888–1988: A Salute to USC Football. Chapel Hill, NC: Four Corners Press, Inc. 1988. p. 67.
- 2006 USC Football Media Guide. 2006. p. 123.
- Florence, Mal (September 2, 1993). "Former USC Coach Jess Hill Dead at 86". Los Angeles Times. pp. C1, C10.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- USC biography
- USC obituary
- New York Times obituary
- Jess Hill at Find a Grave
|University of Southern California Track Coach