The University of Maryland president Darryll Pines announced during his inauguration speech that the football performance center in Cole Field House will be named after trailblazers Billy Jones and Darryl Hill.
The Jones-Hill house will serve as the home of Maryland football and will honor the two men who broke the color barrier in their respective sports.
In 1963, Hill was the first Black student-athlete to play football at Maryland and in the ACC. Two years later, Jones broke the color barrier in basketball at Maryland and in the ACC by being the first Black men’s basketball scholarship player to play with the Terps.
“Maryland’s been the leader and this is a perfect time for the rest of the country to know and see this and also for this current student body,” Hill said. “So the building with Billy’s name on it and my name on it, I think will help point out what Maryland has done in its history so I’m quite gratified from that point of view.”
Jones grew up in Baltimore County and attended Towson High School, just about 50 miles north of College Park, Maryland. Two years before becoming a Terp, Jones led the Towson High School basketball team to its only state championship, which was played at the University of Maryland, in 1963 in which he scored 58 points.
Before breaking the color barrier on the Maryland men’s basketball team and in the ACC, Jones did so on his high school lacrosse team becoming the first Black player on the team in the Towson High School history.
“At the time, a good friend of mine, a teammate in basketball [and] lacrosse going down to Maryland to play and I just thought that ‘we pay state taxes, it’s a state university. And why can I go [the University of Maryland] if I want to go there?’”
Upon arriving at Maryland, Jones continued to break barriers while leading. He made his debut with the Terps on Dec. 1, 1965, against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Although the Terps lost that matchup, they went on to go 14-11, 7-7 in conference play and finished fifth in the ACC behind Duke, NC State, Clemson and North Carolina.
In his final year with the Terps, Jones served as a captain of the team averaging 10.2 points per game.
Despite Jones’ breaking the color barrier in the conference, it was not until 1971 when all other ACC schools had at least one Black man on their roster.
A few years before Jones broke the barrier on the basketball court, Hill did so on the football field.
Hill, also a DMV native, attended Gonzaga College High School before becoming a Navy plebe.
Much like Jones, Hill was breaking color barriers long before arriving at the University of Maryland. At Gonzaga, Hill was the first Black football player and he was the first Black man on the Navy plebe team as well.
After two years with the Midshipmen, Hill looked to transfer and that’s when Maryland approached him.
“Hey, Coach, I ain’t trying to be Jackie Robinson here,” Hill said to Lee Corso when he offered him a spot on the team, “I just want to play some football.”
Although he was not looking to be a trailblazer, Hill became the first Black football player to receive an athletic scholarship from a Division I school south of the Mason-Dixon Line in 1963.
“I think Billy and I helped open the doors for college athletes,” Hill said. “Because before us, if you played football or basketball in the South in high school, you had to go North...
“So Maryland was the ones who kind of opened that door. It does my heart good now the see these professional athletes and African American athletes as well as white athletes getting strongly behind the whole element and idea of equality and social justice... in sports. So, I think the time is right for the story to be told and I’m happy.”
As a Terp, Hill also made an impact on the record books. In his debut season, he set the then-single-game record for receptions with 10 against Clemson as well as an ACC season-record high seven touchdown catches and came close to breaking the program’s single-season record for receptions with 47.
Today is a landmark day for @UofMaryland & @umterps with the naming of Jones-Hill House. This is a fitting tribute to two men, Billy Jones and Darryl Hill, who were trailblazers in becoming the first Black student-athletes to compete in their sports. https://t.co/cxmtZKFSnn— Damon Evans (@Evans_TerpsAD) April 22, 2021
“Jones-Hill House is a fitting tribute to two men who were heroic trailblazers in Billy Jones and Darryl Hill,” athletic director Damon Evans said in a press release. “We are excited to honor them with a permanent reminder of the impact they made on all of Maryland Athletics and the world of collegiate sports.”
The Jones-Hill House will serve as the football performance center but will also feature Game Changers Row, which according to the release, is an area dedicated to recognizing pioneers “whose contributions to their sport and our community epitomize the rich and storied history of diversity, equity and inclusion in Maryland Athletics.”
“You can tear up a photo, it can crack up, you can break a trophy, whatever the case may be, but that building is there for a long, long time,” Jones said. “Even if you don’t know the history, you might ask the question ‘who are those people?’ and in doing so learn something about us...”
“It’s important that University of Maryland gets due credit for what they’re doing. And I’ve always admired Darryl and all the things he did prior to my coming there so, I just want that the story to be told it’s not necessarily about me, but it’s a story that needs to be told, and for that, I’m forever grateful.”