PROVO — Jaime Hill, BYU's defensive coordinator and secondary coach, was fired on Saturday following BYU's loss to Utah State on Friday, giving the Cougars a 1-4 start to BYU's season, the worst start since 1973.
Hill, who was named BYU's defensive coordinator in 2008, came to BYU in 2006 with the departure of Brian Mitchell to Texas Tech. He worked as the secondary coach before being elevated to coordinator. Hill confirmed his dismissal on Saturday.
"I was fired; I didn't resign. I'm OK; I'll be fine," Hill said Saturday.
"This is part of the business and it happens. It just doesn't usually happen in the middle of a season. I will join another team in a couple of weeks."
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall will take over the defensive coordinator responsibilities and indicated that graduate assistant Kelly Poppinga will assume responsibility as a defensive coach on the staff for the remainder of the season.
Mendenhall acted in both roles when BYU hired him in 2005 to replace Gary Crowton.
It is uncertain Mendenhall has made any other personnel moves over the weekend. On his postgame radio show on KSL Friday night, Mendenhall said he supported decisions his coaches made in play-calling and trying to learn about the team and do what was right for the squad.
Hill was given the choice to resign or be fired, according to sources. He met with Mendenhall and athletic director Tom Holmoe on Saturday about noon.
Hill said he was told BYU wanted to go in a different direction with the defensive leadership and he had to go.
"It is surprising that this would happen in the middle of the season; it is unusual," said Hill, who indicated he would have relinquished play-calling duties and finished the season if possible.
Hill is under contract with BYU until August 2011.
People close to the program believe Hill's issues may not be based on performance but some personality issues with players and staff.
"I am not surprised by the move," said former defensive captain Jan Jorgensen, now a radio host on 1280 AM. "I think it is a good thing. Coach Hill is a very volatile person and a number of players have quit because of him and others who are playing now almost quit because of him."
Jorgensen, who played defensive end last year, said Hill was a very good secondary coach, but as a coordinator, "I didn't think he was a very good play-caller."
Jorgensen said he was aware of other conflicts between Hill and players, but he didn't feel comfortable discussing the incidents or people involved.
Hill had a public run-in after practice two years ago with then-freshman Jordan Pendleton. Hill saw Pendleton preparing to be interviewed by the media and he told Pendleton to go into the locker room. When the incident, including Pendleton's expletive, surfaced in an Internet blog of the incident, it led to not only a statement by Mendenhall on player interviews, but a policy on what could be reported on by credentialed media attending practices.
The Cougars have struggled both defensively and offensively this season, ranking among the nation's poorest rush defenses (118th), scoring offenses (116th) and passing efficiency offenses (117th).
The Cougars face San Diego State on Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Hill is a native of San Diego. Mendenhall worked as both head coach and defensive coordinator before hiring Hill.
Hill came to BYU from the Ottawa Renegades of the CFL. He worked with the Calgary Stampeders as secondary coach in 2003 and was the defensive coordinator at Humboldt State in 2001. He played football at Grossmont College and San Francisco State.
By the numbers
Date Opponent Off. yds Yds allowed
Sept. 4 vs. Wash. 408 394
Sept. 11 at Air Force 309 477
Sept. 18 at Florida St. 191 427
Sept. 25 vs. Nevada 320 435
Oct. 1 at Utah State 335 434