Former USC Coach Jess Hill Dead at 86


Jesse T. Hill, a former USC athletic director, football and track coach and an outstanding athlete at the school, died Tuesday night in Pasadena. He was 86.

Hill suffered from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Hill was USC’s football coach from 1951 through 1956. His 1952 team provided the Pacific Coast Conference with its first victory over a Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl by beating Wisconsin, 7-0.

He became athletic director in 1957 and served until 1972. Then he became the first commissioner of the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. until his retirement in 1978.

During Hill’s tenure as athletic director, USC won 29 national championships.

Hill was a multisport star at Corona High. He was a reserve USC fullback in 1928 and 1929 for Howard Jones’ famed Thundering Herd teams.


He was exceptionally fast and, in 1929, led the conference with an average of 8.2 yards in his 54 carries.

Hill was a long jumper on the track team. He ended his track career by winning the event at the I.C. 4-A meet in 1929 with a meet-record jump of 25 feet 7/8 of an inch.

He played on the USC baseball team in 1930 and was the leading batter of the California Intercollegiate Baseball Assn. with an average of .389.

At the end of his college career, Hill signed a professional baseball contract with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. In his first at-bat at Wrigley Field in 1930 against the Angels, Hill hit a home run.

Purchased by the New York Yankees, Hill played for Newark in 1932, St. Paul in 1933 and Newark again in 1934, before being called up by the Yankees in 1935.

He played in 107 games and batted .293. He was with the Washington Senators in 1936, batting .305.

Hill played for the Senators and Philadelphia Athletics in 1937. He finished his baseball career with the Oakland Oaks of the PCL in 1938 and 1939.

After his retirement from baseball, Hill coached at Corona High, Riverside Junior College and Long Beach City College.

He enlisted in the Navy in March of 1942 and was discharged in February of 1946, as a lieutenant-commander.

Hill returned to USC in 1946 as coach of a talented freshman football team that lost only one game--to the school’s junior varsity. He was freshman coach through 1948 before succeeding Dean Cromwell as track coach.

The Trojans, under Hill, were undefeated in 1949 and 1950 and won the NCAA championship.

Hill became USC’s football coach in 1951, succeeding Jeff Cravath. In 1952, Hill’s Trojans beat UCLA, 14-12, the first time in the series that the teams went into the game unbeaten and untied.

However, USC’s season was marred the next week when it lost to Notre Dame, 9-0, at South Bend, Ind. Still, the Trojans finished with a 10-1 record after the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

Hill is survived by a daughter, Mary Bett Carter, and a son, Jess Hill Jr. He had five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 1050 South Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, University Park, MC 0191, Los Angeles, 90089-0191.