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UCF hires Mohajir away from Wolves

by Eli Lederman | February 10, 2021 at 3:33 a.m.
Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir is shown in this file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL)

Nine years after returning to his alma mater and transforming its athletic department on and off the field, Terry Mohajir is leaving Arkansas State University.

Mohajir was named athletic director of the University of Central Florida on Tuesday, one day after multiple national outlets reported his move to the Group of Five powerhouse. He replaces Danny White, who left UCF last month for the same role with the University of Tennessee.

Mohajir received a five-year contract that will pay him a salary of $795,000 in the first year, then is schedule to rise to $950,000 by the fifth year, according to a memorandum of agreement.

Per Mohajir's 2018 contract extension with ASU, the school is entitled to a $500,000 buyout because he accepted a job with another Group of Five school.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to build on the tremendous momentum UCF's talented student-athletes, coaches and staff have established with the enthusiastic support of Knight Nation and so many generous donors," Mohajir said in a statement.

ASU announced the commencement of a national search for its first new athletic director since 2012. The search will be led by university Chancellor Kelly Damphousse and system President Chuck Welch, and ASU intends to hire a search firm to assist with the process.

Deputy athletic director Rich Zvosec will serve as interim athletic director. There is no timetable to hire Mohajir's replacement.

"We're not in a rush here to hire someone, but we will move as quickly as need be," Damphousse told the Democrat-Gazette.

Mohajir -- who also played safety at ASU and graduated in 1993 -- presided over 25 conference championships -- more than any other Sun Belt Conference school during that span -- including four Sun Belt football titles, and three championships between ASU's men's and women's basketball programs.

He was responsible for hiring football coaches Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson and Butch Jones, and the Red Wolves made bowl game appearances in every season but 2020 under his watch.

He oversaw $90 million worth of facilities upgrades, including a $29 million renovation of Centennial Bank Stadium's north end zone completed in 2019. In 2012, ASU athletics made $15.3 million in total revenue, according to USA Today. Those figures spiked under Mohajir, reaching a school-record $43.1 million in 2016, and a most recently reported $35.5 million in 2019.

As ASU's status grew nationally in the past decade, so did Mohajir's. He was selected to represent the Sun Belt as one of 13 members of the College Football Playoff committee in 2019.

"You can look at numbers and you can look at revenue and you can look at facilities, but I think Terry's legacy will be the culture that he established here," Damphousse said. "High expectations for results in competition. Strengthening relationships with donors and fans. The belief in the important role that athletics plays in developing student-athletes and providing a unique sort of culture on your campus."

ASU will seek a candidate who can build on the school's recent rise, Damphousse said. Mohajir had expressed a desire for improvements at Tomlinson Stadium, which houses ASU's baseball program, and to establish a Division I softball program.

"One of the things that we're looking for is someone that can capture a vision or describe a vision for what the next steps look like at Arkansas State, capitalizing on the success we've had in the last 10 years or so," Damphousse said.

The job Damphousse and Welch now have to fill is significantly more attractive than the one Mohajir took in 2012. Thanks to progress achieved under Mohajir, ASU is expected to have a wide pool of candidates interested in the position.

"We're blessed because of the great work that Terry did," Welch said. "He leaves the university better than he found it. We're going to be able to really attract some outstanding candidates as a result of his good work."

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