Marc Daniels: UCF's Home Run Hire Now Gets To Swing Big


UCF Sports

By the time new UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir steps to the podium for his introductory press conference, the process to hire the school's next football coach will be well underway. 

And no one in the country will be able to claim what the new leader of sports at UCF is about to do. Mohajir is about to hire a football coach for the second time in two months and do it at two different schools. On December 12th, Mohajir announced Butch Jones as the new coach at Arkansas State after Blake Anderson took the head coaching job at Utah State. 

Now Mohajir is searching for a coach for UCF's program and he's hit the ground running.

More on the football hire in a moment, but first on the hire of the person many have called "one of the rising stars among athletic directors in the country." Like the man he is replacing, Danny White, Mohajir is known as someone who can rally a fan base and convince them to take a back seat to no one. UCF has a chip on its shoulder and that was the vibe at Arkansas State. "Be as a big as you want to be" is easy to say, but Mohajir led big increases in revenue, donations, facilities and fan support in Jonesboro. He was active on social media. Not afraid to be part of a family Tik Tok video and could be seen at football games doing pushups with cheerleaders after a touchdown to highlight the points scored by the team.

UCF's search for its next AD was not just about finding someone to replace Danny White and not about someone duplicating White. UCF did want to find someone as passionate about their brand as White but also see how to grow that brand. Sometimes change is good for all parties. Maybe White needed a new challenge and a struggling program in Knoxville and the chance to hire a football coach was too tempting to pass up. Mohajir maybe needed a change as well after nearly a decade at Arkansas State. He sees, what many believe, as the best non-P5 job in the country but a place with facilities, fans and a market that parallels or surpasses many P5 programs. In addition, there is the chance to hire a football coach.

And that brings us back to the search. UCF has the same search firm that was involved in hiring Mohajir in the football search and they have been vetting potential candidates. But Mohajir has his own thoughts. And his track record has been pretty good in identifying what the program and school needed at the time.

Gus Malzahn was hired before Mohajir got to Arkansas State. But after a 9-3 season in 2012, Malzahn took the Auburn job where he had been the offensive coordinator before taking the Red Wolves job. Mohajir was losing someone at the time thought to be one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. He wanted someone to keep that exciting style because the fan base responded by buying tickets and a lot of them. So he turned to one of the hottest offensive coordinators in the game at the time in Bryan Harsin. Harsin, the former Boise State quarterback, was an assistant on the staff of Chris Petersen from 2001-2010 where the Broncos went 106-12. In 2011 and 2012, Harsin was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas. That's when Mohajir tabbed Harsin to replace Malzahn. In 2013, Arkansas State went 8-5 but Boise State called Harsin when Chris Petersen left for Washington. Harsin returned to the place he once played quarterback and stayed until Auburn hired him recently to replace.....Gus Malzahn.

Mohajir then went for a coach with high scoring offenses and chose Blake Anderson to replace Harsin. Anderson was putting up almost 500 yards a game overseeing the offense at North Carolina. In his seven seasons at Arkansas State, Anderson won multiple conference titles and went to six bowl games, including a victory over UCF in the 2016 Cure Bowl.

The trend tells you Mohajir will target an offensive coach. What about former UCF QB coach Jeff Lebby? What about Gus Malzahn? Tom Herman? There has been a constant flow of calls and emails to UCF and their search firm from those, or their reps, inquiring about the job. So Mohajir has plenty with interest. But maybe he already knows who he wants. It's highly unlikely he hasn't thought about who he wants before he even took the job. He just went through the process at Arkansas State. Now he has a school with more money, a better track record on the field in a fertile recruiting ground with a brand you either love or hate. 

The guess is the search will be quick. Mohajir has many candidates already vetted by the search firm. Add in a few names he has in mind and by Wednesday night he will be deep into the process. Spring practice is not that far away. A new coach will need to complete a staff and be ready to go in a matter of a few weeks.

There will be many rumors. Some names will be legit and many will be just that, rumors. Agents love to play games and use the media to promote their clients. It doesn't have to be an offensive coach. It just needs to be the right coach. UCF has never been as attractive as it currently is. More attractive than late 2017, when Josh Heupel replaced Scott Frost? Yes. UCF's brand was still building in 2017. Despite a 6-4 record this past season, there is more respect from national media today than ever. UCF is more polarizing today because you either like or dislike the brand. Few people talk about the social media "mafia" of other schools. Few non-P5 brands get under the skin of opponents and their fans and media like UCF. It's why Terry Mohajir took the job and it's why it might be the perfect match...

Final thought: Popcorn is over 5,000 years old and was first used in a microwave in 1945.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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