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Does Chris Hill Know What He is Doing?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Late December 2014 will go down as one of the most tumultuous times for Utah football fans in recent memory. Not because something that occurred on the field. In fact, Utah was coming off a pretty successful season, and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl. Twitter speculation had Utah Football Coach Kyle Whittingham fed up with Utah Athletic Director Dr. Chris Hill and leaving the program. It had some thinking, does Chris Hill know what he is doing?

When all the dust settled, it turns out this was not the case. One could sense that there may have been some disagreement over how assistant coaches salaries were structured, and it was made worse by the loss of defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki to Oregon State. Hill acknowledged talking to Whittingham, but no discussion about money or contracts. Both agreed they had jobs to do, and they were going to do their best to accomplish that.

As the athletic director, Chris Hill makes roughly $783,554. He has two employees that made $982,347 (Larry Krystokwiak before his contract extension), and $2,710,000 (Kyle Whittingham) - according to One of the most important aspects of his job is making sure that his two highest paid employees are happy. He seemed to address that in the off-season and did his best to compensate his two employees for their successful seasons by giving new contracts.

Stadium expansion is a sore subject for some Utah fans. If you have season tickets, this may not be such a hot button topic. All things considered, expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium would be a great thing for the school, program, and especially fans. The demand is there, with the number of years that Utah has had 98% renewal rate for season tickets. One has to consider the money though, and Utah does not really have it right now.

Utah got a 0% share of TV revenue from the Pac-12 in 2011, 50% in 2012, 75% in 2013, and finally last year Utah became a 100% TV revenue sharing partner. Hill has to consider the time it would take to recoup the cost of expansion through ticket sales. Would 10,000 extra seats cover the cost? Maybe eventually, but how many years would it take to do so? Current season ticket holders have watched their season tickets go up at least 400% in the last 10 years. They probably would not appreciate another big increase. The expansion will happen, but Chris Hill seems to want the money for the project before it is built. If the school received that money through donations, the stadium expansion would happen.

Hill has definitely helped bring training facilities up to par with the rest of the Pac-12. New football and basketball facilities, plus an updated the Huntsman Center are all key components to recruiting and maintaining competitive teams. These projects have helped the transition into the Pac-12. Upgraded facilities seemed to be his No. 1 priority when joining the conference. Financial help from Spence Eccles and Jon Huntsman really made these projects possible.

People questioned what Dr. Hill was doing with the basketball team in the post-Majerus era when a couple failed coaching hires sent the program into a tailspin. Hill seemed to admit his mistake and also admitted he had Larry Krystkowiak all but signed to replace Ray Giacoletti, but the Milwaukee Bucks swooped in and hired him instead. Hill knew who he wanted for Utah basketball, but it took a few more years and another bad hire.

Consider the quality hires that have happened during Hill's tenure. In football, he brought in Ron McBride, who helped to turn the Utah football program around and led to a top 10 finish in 1994. Hill then made the tough choice to fire McBride after the 2002 season and replaced him with former Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer led the Utes to a Mountain West Conference championship in both seasons he coached at Utah, and in 2004, he led Utah to an undefeated season and a win in the Fiesta Bowl, the first "BCS Buster." When Meyer left for Florida, Hill made the decision to promote defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham, who also led Utah to an undefeated season in 2008 and a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. In basketball, Hill hired Rick Majerus and Larry Krystkowiak, both of whom have led Utah basketball to a Sweet 16 appearance, with Majerus getting Utah there four times and the final game once in 1998. The decision to fire Lynn Archibald and hire Majerus was not a popular one at the time. While not all of Hill's hires have turned to gold, they have more often than not, and he is not afraid to make the tough decisions and bring in a new coach to improve Utah athletics.

The "Swim Scandal" was supposed to spell the end of Dr. Hill's time at Utah. Media reports and some disgruntled former swim team members who came forward with allegations of misconduct by head swim coach Greg Winslow. This was all under the watchful eye of Hill. One member of the media stated it was time for "Heads to Roll," namely Hill's. He admitted his mistake of delegating the swim team to another member of the athletic department, and vowed it would never happen again. They were serious allegations, and they needed to be addressed. Hill fired Winslow after other allegations that were totally separate from the ones when he was employed at Utah. The scandal ended up not really being the type of thing that could get an athletic director fired, but some in the media felt it was a bigger issue.

Dr. Chris Hill seems to know what he's doing. He does his best to turn to YouTube to explain what's going on in Utah Athletics. Complaints over lack of water fountains and bathrooms at Rice-Eccles Stadium got addressed almost immediately. Facilities have been improved. Programs have improved, and if they have not improved, he has made changes.

If one looks back on post-game interviews of Hill and Ron McBride after the final game in 2002, fans can be heard chanting, "Fire Chris Hill." There were similar chants and "Boos" were heard at a basketball game, after the Kyle Whittingham rumors of December happened. If and when Hill leaves Utah, there are a number of institutions that would gladly hire him, and maybe even fire their own AD to make a spot for him. Dr. Chris Hill has accomplished many of his goals, and more than likely has not completed all he has set out to do. If fans got what they wanted in 2002, where would Utah be today?