JONESBORO-It didn't take long for Arkansas State and new head coach Bryan Harsin to realize they were a perfect match considering Harsin interviewed for, was offered and accepted the job all on the same day, which was Tuesday.
Harsin, who was introduced Wednesday at a 2 p.m. press conference inside the ASU Convocation Center, becomes the 29th head football coach in Arkansas State history after previously being the offensive coordinator at Texas and before that Boise St.
"When I took the job I knew I wanted it and there was no doubt. There is a buzz about Arkansas State and there is two conference championship with a program continuing to show on a stage that they have built and continue to build towards winning," Harsin said of why he accepted the job offer. "To carry over what the former coaches, (Hugh) Freeze and (Gus) Malzahn and what they've done here and the success they had and continue to build in that area and what they started. We are going to make it better and that's what we're going to do."
Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir said himself, System President Chuck Welch and Chancellor Tim Hudson flew to Austin yesterday (Tuesday) to meet with Harsin and offered him the job upon arriving back in Little Rock, where the three man search committee had to drop Welch off.
"We did a nationwide search to find the best possible coach to fulfill the momentum and I think we found the right one," Mohajir said during the press conference. "We had tons of candidates and that is a great tribute to the players, fans and this administration. However, it became very easy when we started zeroing in (on Harsin)."
Mohajir also took the time to describe Harsin as someone who is a former Broyles Award semifinalist during his time at Boise where he reached the title of offensive coordinator at the age of 29 that is an innovative play caller known for two of the more famous play calls in recent college football history.
"He called the statue of liberty play in the fiesta bowl," Mohajir said in reference to Boise States victory over Oklahoma when Harsin was the play caller. "Actually he called the Flea flicker first. Two of the greatest play calls maybe in the history of college football, no one will ever forget that."
Harsin spent 10 of his first 11 seasons at the collegiate level as an assistant at Boise State after playing quarterback for the Broncos from 1995-99, a gig that eventually helped land him in Austin as the co- offensive coordinator at the University of Texas the past two seasons in which he did call plays for the Longhorns. Now, only two years later Harsin has his first head coaching job after learning from the likes of Chris Peterson (Boise St) and Mack Brown (Texas), both of whom he thanked for helping get Harsin to where he is today.
"What a tremendous honor it is to be head football coach at Arkansas State," Harsin said. This is an opportunity that I've felt I've prepared myself for a long time and I didn't know it would feel this good."
During his two seasons in Austin, which included the title of quarterbacks coach as well, Harsin was the primary play-caller even as he held the co-coordinator with Major Applewhite. After finishing 2011 55th (28.1 points per game) and 86th (189.9 yards per game) in the nation in scoring and passing offense, respectively, UT has improved to 24th (36.1 ppg) and 40th (265 ypg) thus far this season.
Harsin replaces former Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn, who left after one season to become the coach at Auburn. Malzahn was 9-3 this season with the Red Wolves, his first as a college head coach, and he guided the team to its second straight Sun Belt Conference championship.
Before putting together its combined 19-6 record over the last two seasons, Arkansas State was a school that had enjoyed little success since becoming an FBS school in 1992. The Red Wolves had finished above .500 only once during that span before last season, when they won in double digits for the first time since they were a member of the I-AA Southland Conference in 1986.
"Two years ago when we made a hire everyone said well hmm that's interesting. Last year when we made a hire it raised a lot of eye brows and people said, well we'll see," ASU system president Chuck Welch said of Arkansas States ability to hire top flight coaches. "This year I think everyone understand this is no fluke, that Arkansas State University is committed to excellence academically and athletically and that we are going to be as aggressive as we need to be and do everything we have to do to get to where it is that we want to go."
Welch and Mohajir both identified Harsin as the only coach to be offered the job during the coaching search that lasted only a week.
"Bryan Harsin is proof positive just as these men right here, Tim Hudson and Terry Mohajir are, that when we find who we want, we go get them," Welch said as he followed with a joke hoping ASU doesn't have to do another one of these press conferences in the near future.
Harsin said he met with his future football team before the press conference adding that the one thing he took from the meeting was that it was a group he was eager to get to work with.
"I got a chance to address the football team just a few minutes ago and I have to say the only disappointing thing about this right now is getting a chance to sit with those players and talk to them and know that they are going to head out on that football field here in about 30 minutes and be out there practicing and preparing for a bowl game and to win the bowl game," Harsin said. "But I can't be out there with them and that's where I want to be."
Harsin also addressed his future staff saying that he had not met with ASU's current coaches or done any interviews but that he will put a grade-A staff together that will focus on recruiting and developing young men.
"We are going to put together the best staff in the country for these players so they can go out and not only be successful not only on the field but off the field," Harsin said. "We need a staff devoted to recruiting and looking to continue to get better each and every day and that's what I look for."
Harsin said his offensive philosophy is very similar to that Freeze and Malzahn ran during their time at ASU but said the main difference will be lining the quarterback under center more where the previous coaches were more shotgun based.
"We are very similar as far as tempo. I believe you have to run the football and specifically you have to be able to run the ball in the red zone," Harsin said well comparing his offense to the previous regime. "That physical mentality of having two backs in the back field at times, we will continue that. We will have a pro-style and playaction while at the same time using an up-temp style. One thing that will be different will be getting down under the center more and taking some shots all the way across the field."
Harsin also addressed his current coaching situation adding he will not be coaching with Texas when the Longhorns take on Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl later this month.
"I'm going to be here and that's what has to happen. They've done a great job at Texas and I'm excited for those players, coaches and that bowl game but my heart is here and I've got to spend the time to be with these players, to get to know these players and to get this up and running."
ASU football players David Oku and Sterling Young also addressed the media approving of the new coaching hire.
"A lot of players felt some uncertainty and didn't know what to expect but now that we have a head coach a lot of players can just go focus on the bowl game and worry about that," said Oku, who will be a senior running back on Harsins first ASU team. "I've been through this before because this is my fourth different head coach. I'm happy it's over though and as coach Harsin said hopefully we can get a bowl win and finish what we started. "
"It's real exciting to finally get a new head coach," said the safety Young. "The younger players were really concerned and had their heads all over the place and concerned but now that we have our coach it's time to settle in and get ready to go win this bowl."
At the conclusion of the press conference a package was handed out laying out the details in Harsins contract which calls for $700,000 in total income from the University and Red Wolf Club, Inc. The contract calls for a five year agreement beginning Jan. 1, 2013 through January 31, 2018.
Should Harsin attempt to leave or resign during the first year of his contract he will have to pay liquidated damages covering 1.75 million. That number drops to 1-million the second year and working its way down to 100,000 the fifth year.
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