Mississippi State assistant tennis coach Matt Hill accepted the head coaching position at the University of South Florida this week, coming off MSU’s best season in 14 years.
Under Hill and head coach Per Nilsson, the Bulldogs finished No. 11 in the country with a 20-7 record, both numbers the best for the program since the 1998 team that finished No. 4 in the country. MSU also made the NCAA Tournament for a second-consecutive year.
Hill replaces 20-year USF head coach Don Barr, who retired at the end of the season, leading the Bulls to a second place finish in the Big East.
“Obviously, it’s an exciting time for me and my fiancé,” Hill said. “It’s two-fold. We’re excited to get down and start building a new program, and at the same time, we’re sad to leave Mississippi State. It’s been an incredible experience, some great people, outside of the tennis program, too, I’m going to miss.”
In a statement released by USF, Athletic Director Doug Woolard said that while meeting with head coaches and assistant coaches from across the country, “Matt Hill continued to stand out. He’s universally regarded as one of, if not the, top national and international recruiters in the country by his peers, which is matched by his ability to teach and relate with today’s top tennis players … He was a major part of both Alabama and Mississippi State’s success during his involvement and we believe he can lead USF to that same level of success.”
Hill is the third MSU assistant to land a head coaching job this summer, as Lane Burroughs was named the head baseball coach at Northwestern State University and Myranda Sanders was named the head women’s soccer coach at Concordia University. MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said is he excited for their successes.
“We’re always happy when our people have opportunities like this, whether it’s an assistant coach becoming a head coach or our student-athletes like Fletcher Cox, Arnett Moultrie and Chris Stratton,” Stricklin said.
Nilsson is out of the country and unreachable for comment, and his timeline for finding a replacement is unknown.
Hill credited the work Nilsson has done with the MSU program for his growth and opportunity as an assistant coach, recalling how quickly the two realized they were a good fit when Nilsson became the head coach at MSU and needed an assistant.
While noting it was a struggle initially, Hill said the program is on its way to becoming what he and Nilsson envisioned when they started.
“Per and I always said from the beginning, our goal is to be No. 1,” Hill said. “It usually takes two recruiting cycles, it usually takes 7 years.”
That recruiting appears to be going well, with three high-profile signees arriving on campus for the 2012-13 year.
“It’s gonna be fun for Mississippi State tennis over the next few years,” Hill said. “I think it’s just getting started there.”
Hill joked that he won’t be trying to schedule a match with MSU anytime soon, but he will be back in Mississippi soon. He’s getting married in Jackson this October.