Arkansas St. hires Harsin as coach
AUSTIN, Texas (AP)
Harsin was introduced as the new coach of the Red Wolves on Wednesday - one day after he agreed to leave the Longhorns and replace former Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn.
The former Boise State assistant coach becomes the third head coach in as many years for the two-time Sun Belt Conference champion Red Wolves. Malzahn left after one season to take over Auburn last week, while current Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze did the same two years ago.
''It was the right time,'' Harsin said at a news conference in Jonesboro. ''I had a purpose, and this was the opportunity and the chance that I've been looking for and wanting to be a part of and to be a part of this family and this team and this community. I'm excited to be here.''
The 35-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Longhorns, but he'll begin work immediately with the Red Wolves and won't coach Texas during the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.
The Longhorns, who were 16-9 the last two seasons, will turn over play-calling duties to co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.
''Brian has done a tremendous job for us, and we appreciate all the energy he's poured into our program the past two seasons,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said. ''He's a bright young coach with great enthusiasm and passion for the kids and the game. He'll do a tremendous job at Arkansas State.''
Arkansas State will continue preparations for the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 against Kent State. The Red Wolves, who are 19-6 the last two seasons, will also begin to prepare for life under another new coach.
Since Malzahn left for Auburn last week, Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir said he conducted a nationwide search for a replacement. He said the search included former NFL and BCS championship head coaches, but it was Harsin's sincere interest in the job - and his family - that ''made it very easy when we started zeroing in.''
''When we find who we want, we go get them,'' Arkansas State president Chuck Welch said. ''We've identified the best and brightest around the country, and we've made it happen.''
Mohajir flew to Austin on Tuesday to meet with Harsin, who spent the bulk of his coaching career at Boise State before being hired by Texas two years ago. The athletic director said it was important to hire someone who would remain with the program for more than one season, a thought that's reflected in Harsin's contract.
Harsin signed a five-year contract for $700,000 annually, including a $1.75-million buyout if he leaves during the first year. That buyout lowers to $1 million in the second year, $500,000 in the third, $300,000 in the fourth and $100,000 in the fifth.
''His reps tried to beat me up a little bit, but it was just like `non-negotiable,''' Mohajir joked about the buyout.
Harsin will also receive a $50,000 bonus for winning a conference championship and $25,000 for reaching a bowl game without winning a conference title.
Harsin replaces 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 championship.
The Red Wolves went 7-1 in conference play, with their only loss coming to Western Kentucky on Sept. 29. Arkansas State has won seven straight games since that loss, including a season-ending 45-0 win over Middle Tennessee, behind the play of quarterback Ryan Aplin - the two-time Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.
Malzahn was the second straight Arkansas State coach to leave for a job in the Southeastern Conference. He followed Freeze, who also left the school after one season as head coach when he became coach at Mississippi last year.
Before putting together its stellar two-season run, 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.
Malzahn said during his brief time in Jonesboro that he wanted to turn Arkansas State into the ''Boise State of the south.'' Harsin, who played for the Broncos, hopes to continue with that
''This is an opportunity that I've felt I've prepared myself for for a long time,'' Harsin said. ''I didn't know it was going to feel this good.''