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Mohajir says UCF too 'unique' to pass

by Eli Lederman | February 11, 2021 at 2:33 a.m.
Former Arkansas State University Athletic Director Terry Mohajir is shown in this photo.

One day after his move to the University of Central Florida became official, Terry Mohajir was introduced as UCF's athletic director Wednesday.

The former Arkansas State University AD takes over the Knights' athletic program on a five-year contract, and with an immediate task of hiring a head football coach, a process he completed three times with the Red Wolves. Mohajir will be paid $795,000 in his first year -- up from the $450,000 he was paid at ASU -- and his salary is scheduled to rise to $950,000 by the final year of his contract, according to a memorandum of agreement.

Eight and a half years after the ASU graduate returned to Jonesboro to lead the athletic program, Mohajir is now in charge of one of the most high-profile Group of Five athletic departments in the country.

"I've had opportunities to interview at other places and it just wasn't right because of where I was," Mohajir said. "But this one is just different. It's very unique. It's an opportunity to do things that have never been done."

Mohajir fought through tears and began the introductory news conference by focusing on the past.

He thanked "the amazing people of Jonesboro, Arkansas and the Red Wolves community," offering them a final "Wolves Up". He also mentioned system President Chuck Welch and former university chancellor Tim Hudson, the two men who hired him at his alma mater.

He acknowledged the many staff members, athletes and coaches he worked with on campus, and closed with a new take on the mantra that endeared him to the fan base.

"Alongside incredible donors and friends, we achieved historic accomplishments and I'm so proud of my alma mater," Mohajir said. "It will always be my school, man."

In outlining why he was the right hire for the Knights, Mohajir pointed to the 25 conference titles the Red Wolves won under his leadership, the facilities upgrades he oversaw and the fundraising network he developed that allowed the athletic program to grow.

Addressing UCF's football coaching vacancy coaching , he referenced his track record at ASU, where he hired Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson and Butch Jones.

Mohajir said the "blank canvas" UCF has to offer and the chance to accomplish "something that's never been done before" led to his Jonesboro departure.

"Leaving Arkansas State was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life," he said. "But I hope that speaks volumes of how unique I feel this opportunity at UCF is. I truly believe that we can build this program to be one of the best in the country."

ASU announced Wednesday that search firm TurnkeyZRG will assist Welch and university Chancellor Kelly Damphousse in the hiring process.

The school's athletic department has changed drastically since it last hired an athletic director in 2012. The Red Wolves' football success has raised their national profile, and coupled with the $90 million in facility renovations executed by Mohajir, ASU offers prospective candidates a lot.

"What's happened in the last decade is hard to put into words," Welch told the Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday. "We've changed the program physically. We've changed it from the standpoint of our national exposure and the way that our program is viewed nationally."

The search is expected to be broad, but ASU still could rely on past connections. Damphousse came to ASU in 2017 after three decades at the University of Oklahoma, which is home to one of the top athletic programs in the country. Welch said he expects interest from candidates across both Power 5 and Group of Five institutions.

"There's very much been a difference in terms of the number of phone calls that we're getting already now, compared to what I received eight and a half years ago," Welch said. "I think that says it all."

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