“The challenge is we are so far behind in scheduling,” he said in an interview last week. “When I got here, we had no games in 2014. Right now we have one. We are behind, we are very behind.”
The only game on the books for 2014 is a road trip to Idaho.
“There is a high-profile Pac-12 school that wants to play us,” he said. “There is a game, we might play a game in Hawaii. That is good for recruiting. Every four years you can play a game like that. There is a little bit more method to the madness. The way things were done here in the past is not the way I intend to do things. We have a strategy, it just matters if we can execute it or not.
“I am trying to change our mindset at Arkansas State,” Mohajir said. “Arkansas State fans think we can only play premiere teams in Little Rock. That is all we do. That is not what we are going to do anymore. We will play the premiere teams in Jonesboro, and the teams we have the best chance to beat in Little Rock because they are an away game for us too. Yes they are in our home state, but they are a different locker room, and the kids sleep in a motel. So it is an away game, so you want to play the teams that you feel you have the best chance to beat.
“It is not that I am not fully vested in playing in Little Rock” he said. “I am committed to that. We were going to play (the University of Arkansas) Pine Bluff in Little Rock, but that means our first game with our new coach would not be at home. He needs to play at home. And I am not against playing an FCS school at a neutral site. I think that is bogus. We need to play the teams that gives us the best opportunity to grow and win games. And after I threw it out that we might play Pine Bluff in Little Rock I took some heat over that.”
He said the school would be open to other ideas for scheduling.
“Take someone like Texas” Mohajir said. “If they we were going to play a home-and-home with us and they did not want to play in Jonesboro, then I would be willing to do our home game in like Dallas Cowboys Stadium because that gives us the best opportunity to make money. We have got to make money, too, because we we are behind in the revenue generation area. It is exactly the strategy that I intended when we started talking about the (UAPB) game, I felt we could make a lot of money.
“There will be problems,” he said. “The Colorado’s of the world just want to pay you a guarantee. They will give $500,000 to play. We can get a million (dollars) from Alabama. Now, I feel if we played Colorado, we could win and get a guarantee. We want to be strategic in who we play. We still have to play the game on the field.”
Additionally complicating the scheduling issue was the move of two more Sun Belt Conference members to Conference-USA leaving a hole in the 2013 season.
“I knew this was going to be an issue,” Mohajir said. “A couple of games came up that I had an opportunity, there were about three teams I had an opportunity to play because something happened among their opponents. I was talking to three (Automatic Qualifying Conference) schools. I had agreements with two different AQ schools. They were both home-and-home. One of the athletic directors wanted us to do 2 for 1 but I said no.”
“What we have is a high-level AQ school,” Mohajir said.
ASU opens the season on Aug. 31 at home with UAPB. The Red Wolves play at Auburn on Sept. 7 and at Memphis on Sept. 21. The Idaho game is Oct. 12. The conference schedule has not been released.
The Mohajir plan does not rule out playing money games.
“We have to expand our brand nationally,” he said. “We have to be smart; we can’t play too many of them. We have to have a good balance.
“If we can build our season-ticket base to the level we need to build it to make up for a $900,000 game – and that is a big increase – that is a lot of season tickets. We can make up some in fund raising. We are going to continue to evaluate that. We can get some home-and-homes if we can continue to build the season ticket base package,” Mohajir said.
“I don’t call them money games,” he said. “You know what I call them – advanced training. It is just a mindset. People take their money games. I look at them a little differently. Yes, they may be paying us some money, but there is going to be a time when we need to beat those teams. And if you don’t play those teams, you don’t really know how good you are. So when you are playing the best teams in the country you have an idea of how good you really are.
“When we played Oregon this year we realized we probably would not be competing for a national championship,” he said. “That was one of the best teams in the country. But when other teams like Boise and TCU and Central Florida, when they played some of these teams, they beat them. They were so-called money games, but they beat them. That is how they built their national brand.
“So we have to play these games,” Mohajir said. “That is why I call them advance-training games. So we have to continue to play them. We are in the competition business, just like GM and Ford are in the transportation business. We want to win, and we want to be as good as we can possibly be. If we are ever gonna grow this program we have go to set our sights high.
“Am I way too optimistic? I don’t think so,” he said. “Look at this year, we stubbed our toe against Western Kentucky. If we did not lose to Western Kentucky what could we have been? We beat our last seven teams pretty good. We lost to Oregon, which played for their conference championship, and Nebraska, which played for their conference championship. Our schedule compared to Northern Illinois, they had the weakest schedule in America by strength. They lost to a non-bowl eligible Iowa team. We might of had a chance.
“We are going to be evaluating” Mohajir said. “But I am not in a hurry. It just puts a little more pressure on us to play more games. So next year we will have six home games and six road games. That is pretty good for Arkansas State. Good balance. And there is another one at Memphis.”
Keeping the Memphis series, which ends this year with a game at Liberty Bowl Stadium, is also a priority.
“Memphis is not open until 2017 or something like that,” he said. “You and I both know that would be a great game for them. We should do home and home with them every year. Sign a 10-year contract. That would be great. That is a great game for both of us. They travel we travel. Good for tickets sales. Good for everything.”