Southern Illinois University Director of Athletics Tommy Bell announced Wednesday that offensive coordinator and interim head coach Nick Hill has been promoted to head football coach.
Hill, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in SIU history, becomes the 21st head coach in school history and only the fourth to lead his alma mater, joining Abe Martin, Bill O’Brien and Shawn Watson.
“Nick Hill is one of the brightest and most creative minds in college football today,” said Bell. “He has a commanding presence among our team, a relentless work ethic, and a burning desire to rebuild Saluki football.”
Hill joined the SIU staff in 2014 as the program’s quarterbacks coach. In his first season, Saluki quarterbacks broke a school record for single-season touchdown passes with 29. First-year quarterback Mark Iannotti tied a school record with six touchdown passes in a win over Southeast Missouri State.
I know what the blueprint looks like for our program to be successful, going back to my playing days for Coach Kill, and I know we can get there. Coaching my alma mater is a dream come true.
Nick Hill, new SIU head football coach
Hill was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2015 and completely overhauled the team’s offense by installing his own version of the up-tempo, spread attack. The results were remarkable as the Salukis’ offense averaged 498 yards per game, the second most in conference history.
Under Hill’s guidance, the 2015 SIU offense led the conference and ranked in the top-11 nationally in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense. Iannotti led the nation in total offense per game and was ninth in national Offensive Player of the Year voting. In the two years since Hill arrived on SIU’s staff, the Salukis have improved rushing yards per game by 46, passing yards per game by 67, total yards per game by 113, and points per game by seven.
A native of nearby Du Quoin, Hill was one of the most prolific passers in school history during two seasons as SIU’s starting quarterback in 2006 and 2007, under head coach Jerry Kill. He recorded a 21-6 record as a starter and set single-season school records for passing yards and total offense in 2007.
Among the highlights of his playing career were leading the team to a win over Indiana, marking the first time in conference history that a member school defeated a Big Ten opponent. He also guided Southern to three playoff wins, and the 2007 squad advanced to the national semifinals, the deepest playoff run for Saluki football since winning a national championship in 1983. Hill remains the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage (68.3).
Nick Hill is one of the brightest and most creative minds in college football today. He has a commanding presence among our team, a relentless work ethic, and a burning desire to rebuild Saluki football.
Tommy Bell, SIU athletic director
“I know what the blueprint looks like for our program to be successful, going back to my playing days for Coach Kill, and I know we can get there,” Hill said. “Coaching my alma mater is a dream come true. I love everything about this region and what it stands for, that blue-collar mentality. This is not my team. This is our team. Our program is going to invest in the community and make us proud on and off the field.”
After graduating from SIU in 2007, Hill played six seasons of professional football. In the Arena Football League, he played for head coach Jay Gruden, who is currently the head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. In addition to playing in the AFL, Hill signed free agent contracts with the Chicago Bears in 2008 and Green Bay Packers in 2012.
Hill began his coaching career in 2013 as head coach at Carbondale High School. In his only season with the Terriers, he guided the program to an Illinois High School Association playoff berth.
Hill signed a three-year contract worth $175,000 annually, plus incentives. He resides in Carterville with his wife, Alicia. The couple are expecting their first child in February.
What they’re saying about Nick Hill
Jerry Kill, Former SIU head coach, recently resigned from Minnesota
“I promise you Nick Hill will work day and night because he doesn’t want to let anyone down. 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. He has a good model to work from. I think he’s learned a lot about coaching, based on what Southern’s offense accomplished last year. What people don’t realize is how many people he knows, from various pro leagues, to our guys at Minnesota and throughout college football. Nick will have a lot of people supporting him. He needs to enjoy today, and the bottom line is he has to go out-work people tomorrow. A lot of people weren’t fired up about me when I was hired. You get respect by winning football games, and to do that, you recruit good staff and good players. Nick can do that. He’s smarter than I was — a dumb-ass country boy from Cheney, Kan.”
Carl Mauck, SIU Hall of Famer and 34-year NFL playing and coaching veteran
“Nick has the characteristics you look for in an outstanding head coach. He’s level-headed, but also has a lot of fire and energy. He knows what he wants at quarterback, which is the position that makes or breaks your team. He will recruit harder than anyone and will present himself well to recruits and their families. I’m confident that he can assemble a strong staff. He knows the area, he loves the school. I’m proud that he got the job and I’m excited for him and the program.”
Deji Karim, Former SIU running back, teammate and four-year NFL veteran
“Nick is a great leader because of the type of person he is. He’s smart, and his core beliefs and values inspire everyone around him to improve. He has great relationships with current and former players, and I truly believe he will get SIU back on the right track.”