Arkansas State University Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said Monday he knew what it was like to handle athletic complications in the face of a hurricane.
ASU filed a "breach of contract" lawsuit against the Miami on Friday. It seeks damages because Miami did not promptly reschedule its canceled football game from the 2017 season because of Hurricane Irma or paid the game contract's $650,000 buyout.
Mohajir spoke to a group of reporters after his speech at the Downtown Tip-Off Club at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock. He responded to a question regarding the morality of suing a university over complications that rose from a hurricane.
The Miami Herald published a column Feb. 14 that said ASU "looks outrageously tone-deaf in threatening to sue" Miami.
"I've been through it," said Mohajir, who pointed out he was an associate athletic director at Florida Atlantic when Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005.
Mohajir said the FAU athletic staff learned that the hurricane, then a Category 5, was veering toward Florida on the Monday before its football game at Arkansas State.
The game was played as scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 22. Hurricane Wilma made landfall in South Florida on Oct. 24.
"I got home at about 5 o'clock [Sunday] morning," Mohajir said. "I put my hurricane shutters on, and we were in the house during the hurricane. So, I understand it. I lost a quarter of my roof, you know, cost about $30,000 in damage. But this is not about that."
The majority of ASU's lawsuit against Miami, which was filed in Craighead County court, focuses on whether or not the 2017 game in Jonesboro was "impossible to play."
The contract, which both athletic departments signed in May 2013, has a "Force Majeure" clause that states "this contract shall be void" if it becomes impossible to play the game due to "an unforeseen catastrophe."
The lawsuit states the canceled game "was not impossible" to play because the game "was to take place in Jonesboro," and since Miami was the only Florida FBS program that didn't reschedule its game for later in the season or buy out its partner.
Mohajir said Monday that he has received "support" from other athletic directors, whom he did not specify.
"They completely understand," Mohajir said. "I talked to a lot of Florida schools when the whole process was going through. So, I know what they all did. I'm not going to say what they t0ld me."
Miami's legal counsel did not respond to phone call requests for interviews Monday, which were left with the university's communications department.
ASU said it had received confirmation from Miami that the university had received the lawsuit.
The universities progressed toward litigation after disputes over rescheduling dates were not resolved.
The lawsuit states Miami Athletic Director Blake James said the earliest the Hurricanes could return to Jonesboro was 2024, and that Mohajir "consulted a scheduling service," which "revealed that Miami had openings in both 2020 and 2021."
Mohajir clarified Monday that he had consulted Gridiron, a college football scheduling service used by athletic directors.
The lawsuit states James refused the 2020-2021 dates because it was "impossible given Miami's prior scheduling agreements," and that Mohajir told James 2024 would be a timetable that was "detrimental and harmful to ASU."
Mohajir said Monday that the gap between 2020 and 2024 was a "huge difference" because the Red Wolves first played in Miami in 2014.
"A decade-plus apart doesn't work for us," he said. "It just doesn't work for us -- that's it."
The lawsuit states the "industry standard for two-game agreements is not ten or more years between the games."
ASU's series with Missouri was completed within 2013 and 2015.
Sports on 02/21/2018
Print Headline: Mohajir: I fathom hurricane hurdles