Boise State has hired former player and offensive coordinator and Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin to be the Broncos next head coach.
Athletic Director Mark Coyle confirmed Wednesday he had lured Harsin back to Boise and away from Arkansas State, where Harsin served as head coach for just one season.
The 37-year-old Harsin grew up in Boise and became a backup quarterback after walking on to the program in the late 1990s. He then worked as an assistant coach starting in 2001 and was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2006 by Chris Petersen, the man he will now replace.
"We're coming home," Harsin said in a statement issued by the university. "One of the hardest decisions we ever made was leaving Boise. We did that so I could become a better coach, so I could one day have the opportunity to return as head coach — that day has arrived."
It didn't take long for Coyle to find a successor to Petersen, who left last week to take over at Washington.
Coyle focused his search on coaches with ties to the program, including former Broncos head coach Dirk Koetter, now the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. University officials have not yet released salary and contract information for Harsin.
"We are extremely excited in our selection of Bryan Harsin as the next head football coach at Boise State," Coyle said. "Bryan is one of the top young head coaches in college football and we are thrilled to bring him back to Boise to lead the Bronco program."
This will be the fourth consecutive year A-State will conduct a nationwide search for a head football coach. The program has lost Hugh Freeze (Mississippi), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), and now Harsin.
In his only season at Arkansas State, Harsin led the Red Wolves to a 7-5 record and a share of the Sun Belt Conference title. The team will also play Ball State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl later this month.
His five-year contract at Arkansas State carries a $1.75 million buyout clause if he stepped away in the first year of the deal. His departure also makes him the third straight Red Hawks head coach to leave after one year, following Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn.
Red Wolves defensive coordinator John Thompson has been named the team's interim head coach, and a national search to fill the head football coach position at A-State will begin immediately.
"We appreciate everything Coach Harsin did for Arkansas State during his time as head football coach," said Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir. "We wish him and his family only the best in their future. We will now turn our attention to conducting a national search for a head coach to lead our three-time defending Sun Belt Conference champion football program."
Harsin was named Arkansas State's 29th head football coach Dec. 12, 2012. Thompson becomes the interim head football coach for the second consecutive year after leading Arkansas State to the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl championship. Thompson has served as the Red Wolves defensive coordinator the last two seasons.
"An Arkansas State man coaches Arkansas State football," Mohajir said about the Red Wolves' upcoming appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl.
"With three consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships, three straight bowl-game appearances, and 27 wins over that same span, our football program has developed a strong national brand," said Mohajir. "This is an opportunity to find the right person at the right time to fill our head football coach position and lead our emerging football program."
The national search for Arkansas State's next head football coach will be conducted by Mohajir, Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson and Arkansas State University System President Dr. Charles Welch. Mohajir said Arkansas State will work to move quickly on the search.
It was during Harsin's tenure as offensive coordinator at Boise State that the team put together its most impressive string of victories and emerged as a BCS contender.
During his tenure, Harsin oversaw an offense led by quarterback Kellen Moore, who won 50 games as a starter to become college football's winningest quarterback. Between 2006-2010, the Broncos put together a 61-5 record, won two BCS bowls, won at least 12 games in four seasons, went undefeated in 2006 and 2009 and led the nation in scoring in 2009.
He should also be familiar with a handful of the Broncos upperclassmen, including junior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who was recruited by Harsin before leaving for Texas and the front-runner to be the starting quarterback next fall.
Harsin left Boise State in 2010 to become the offensive coordinator at Texas, helping a team that finished 88th in the nation in scoring before his arrival to improve to 24th in just two years.
But in Boise, Harsin takes over a team that posted its worst record in nearly a decade despite projections it would win the Mountain West Conference title. Hurt by injuries to its starting quarterback and a young defense, the Broncos finished 8-4 and missed out on the conference title game.
"I appreciate the history and tradition of the Boise State program," said Harsin, a graduate of Capitol High in Boise. "I embrace the success but won't rest on it. We will build this program every day with a sense of urgency."
Associated Press reporter Todd Dvorak in Boise contributed to this report.
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