Hill built a reputation at Fresno State as a giant killer with the mantra of playing anybody, anywhere, anytime. But in recent years, the Bulldogs struggled both in conference play and in meetings against major teams and fans stopped packing Bulldog Stadium.
"We've been evaluating data after each season for the last several years and we saw a trend that was not reflective of us being able to pursue the goal of a conference championship," Athletic Director Thomas Boeh said. "And our community was not responding any longer to the record that we had."
Boeh said that over the last six years there has been a 42 percent decline in season ticket sales and a 25 percent drop in ticket revenue.
The Bulldogs finished this season 4-9 after a 35-28 loss at San Diego State on Saturday, losing five of their final six games. Hill had two years remaining on his contract.
The Bulldogs made their mark in 2001 when they started the season 6-0 behind quarterback David Carr, with wins over eventual Big 12 champion Colorado, as well as nationally ranked Oregon State and Wisconsin, while rising to No. 8 in The Associated Press poll.
Fresno State then lost 35-30 to Boise State, ending its hopes of being the first team from outside the major six conferences to crash the Bowl Championship Series. Hill could never compete with the Broncos, going 1-10 in his career against Boise State and getting outscored 220-51 in the last four meetings.
The only win against the Broncos came in 2005 when the Bulldogs once again moved up the national rankings to No. 16 heading into a showdown with then-No. 1 Southern California. Fresno State nearly ended USC's 32-game winning streak before falling 50-42.
From that loss to the end of his tenure, Hill had a 40-41 record. He finished his career at Fresno State with a 112-80 mark and went to 11 bowl games.
"Pat was very professional," Boeh said. "He understands this industry, he understands how this works and he was as good as one can be under those circumstances. He's put a lot of hard work into this program over the past 15 years, and we thank coach Hill for everything he's done."
The Bulldogs went 3-15 against the top three teams in the WAC over the past six seasons, 8-22 against bowl eligible teams, and won just one of their past five bowl games.
The new coach will take the Bulldogs into the Mountain West conference, where they begin play next season. He also could inherit some big-play talent on offense if quarterback Derek Carr, running back Robbie Rouse and receiver Jalen Saunders all return.
"We'll do it at an accelerated pace, as fast as we can," Boeh said of the search for a replacement. "We have official visits scheduled for several recruits and a signing day in February, so it's terribly important we move as quickly as possible."
AP freelance Marek Warszawski in Fresno, Calif., contributed to this report