Dudley Hilton resigns from UPIKE

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Cites health and personal reasons

By John Overby

After three seasons, University of Pikeville head football coach and Washington County native Dudley Hilton has resigned for personal and health matters, UPIKE President James Hurley announced on Saturday, according to a press release on the team’s website.

“On behalf of the administration, board of trustees, faculty, staff, students and all UPIKE stakeholders, I thank coach Hilton and his wife Jan for sharing their last three years with us,” Hurley said. “Coach Hilton has done a wonderful job building our program into a conference contender and developing our young men both on and off the field. We wish him the very best moving forward.”

Hilton leaves UPIKE after putting together a 14-18 record in three seasons, including a 7-4 campaign in 2013 that was the best for the program since 2005.

“Coaching at the college level was a great experience for me,” Hilton said. “Anybody ought to try something new. It’s hard on your furniture when you move, but I think you’ve got to experience new areas, new people, new challenges in life. That’s coaching.

“You don’t want to have a regret when your career is over. Coaching college football wasn’t my dream, but you never know what life is going to hold for you.”

According to Hilton, the decision to resign was a sudden one, notifying his team before the start of preseason practice on Saturday, just 19 days before kickoff.

“I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to miss practice,” Hilton said. “I never have missed one. I knew I’d have to go to the doctor a few times. I didn’t want to start out with it this season. I’ve got two great coordinators in Brian Williams and Allan Holland, Jr. (who has been named interim head coach). I knew they could keep it going forward. I just didn’t want to be a disruption.”

One factor that made the decision to resign even more difficult was that his son, John Dudley Hilton, is a senior starting linebacker who has led UPIKE in tackles all three seasons he has been at the school (all of which were seasons in which Hilton was the coach).

Before that, Hilton coached his son for four years at Bell County, where they collaborated for a state title in 2008.

“I don’t know what it will be like watching him from the stands instead of the sidelines, but it’s been a joy for me being able to coach him for as long as I did,” Hilton said. “It’s a unique situation. I felt like sometimes … you gotta be a fan also. It was hard for me to be a fan when he’s playing. It’s not that I couldn’t handle it, but I’d like to see what it feels like. It’s definitely going to be different, different for him. But we all grow up, and this is definitely going to help him grow up that much quicker.”

Prior to taking the position at UPIKE, Hilton was one of the most successful football coaches in Kentucky high school football history.

He amassed 345 victories and won three state titles (1991, 1997 and 2008) in three different classifications over 36 seasons.

He retired from high school football in 2010 with a career record of 345-101, tied atop the state records for the most football coaching victories all-time (since broken) following a career which included 20 district titles, 11 regional titles, seven regional runner-up finishes and 34 consecutive winning seasons in addition to his state titles.

His career accomplishments were recognized with Coach of the Year honors from the Kentucky High School Athletics Directors Association, the Kentucky High School Coaches Association and the Louisville Courier-Journal. In 1997, he was named Sportsman of the Year by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

It was also announced recently that he would be inducted as part of next year’s class into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

Despite the recent setback, though, Hilton did not rule out a return to the sidelines.

“Who knows?” Hilton said. “I never thought I’d leave Springfield 40 years ago. I’ve got a leg that’s hurting me real bad, but if I get my health back, who knows what’ll happen? I can’t say either way at this point; I’ll worry about it if that opportunity ever comes. I’ve got to take care of my health, first and foremost. I’m still a young man at 66, ya know?

“If I don’t get back into it, though, I sure appreciate the support throughout my career of my hometown of Springfield,” Hilton added. “I’ve had a lot of people there that have followed me my whole career. Most of them are on my side, and they want to make sure I’m healthy and happy. That’s a real blessing.”