Pat Hill speaks publicly

FRESNO, Calif.

It was the first time he spoke publicly since the university's athletic director announced the university was firing him.

It was an emotional day for Pat Hill. During his 15-minute farewell media conference, Hill took no questions but thanked everyone for the last 15-seasons he spent as the Bulldogs head coach -- urging fans and the administration to get behind the new coach and to support the players. "We entered the ring, we gave it our best shot. Didn't finish it. I would've much rather had the fight than never fought and just talked about it. Hopefully big time football will remain."

Hill did not reveal much about his immediate future. He only said he still remains passionate about the game of football and he's looking forward to welcoming a new edition to the hill clan next summer. "As I put closure to this I really don't know what my future hold. I do know this I will be a grandfather in July and that's all that really matters right now."

Even though he's is credited with building Fresno State into a national brand in college football, in the end Hill acknowledged he lost his job because he didn't win enough to keep the fan base or the administration happy.

"We made some runs, we had two losing seasons in the last 13 years. We made some runs, we didn't finish the job. I'll take complete responsibility of that. I thank you for everything you gave me it's been great. Good bye Fresno."

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Fresno State said its football program has been dealing with decreasing attendance under Coach Hill's leadership. The university reports season ticket sales have dropped 42 percent and ticket revenue is down 25 percent since 2006.

This year, average attendance during this season's six home games was just over 29,000 -- the seating capacity is over 41,000. It was the worst attendance for Fresno State since the 1984 season.

Hill brought Fresno State national attention and painted the Valley red in support of the Bulldogs. His departure could save that unity and create opportunities for local businesses.

For 15 years, Pat Hill has been the face of Fresno State football and one of the best known faces in the entire Central Valley. His Fu Manchu filled the front of T-shirts and sold everything from furniture to Lasik surgery.

But a few disappointing seasons shaved away Hill's universal popularity with fans and sponsors. Marketers for Eye-Q Vision say this ad had run its course and they were about to pull it, even if Hill wasn't fired.

Fresno State marketing professor William Rice said advertisers shouldn't rush to separate themselves from Coach Hill because he still has a lot of good will in the community. But like the team, businesses need to move on. "I don't think people are going to think bad about the companies that have Pat Hill on their commercials, but I think they have an opportunity now to find somebody who has a different kind of vision."

Rice says a new coach is also a great marketing tool for the university. He says a fresh face will energize the fan base, including himself. "It comes down to dollars. If we're not bringing people in and sponsorships, you know, attendance, then we can't support the kind of program we really need at Fresno State. So, marketing-wise it was a great move."

Former Fresno State football player Kenny Borg now relies on the Bulldogs for his business. His dog prints store was responsible for the Fu Manchu shirts. Borg knows a winning team sells T-shirts, and a new coach might help, but he also gives coach Hill a lot of credit for his success so far. "The reason that retail sales in regards to Fresno State Football is what it is -- is because Pat Hill built this program into what it is."

Fresno State athletics could also benefit financially from Hill's departure. Ticket takers say they've taken several calls today from fans looking for season tickets now that the school is ready to find a new coach.

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