JONESBORO — Former University of Central Arkansas player and athletic director John Thompson has been named interim head football coach at Arkansas State and will coach the Red Wolves in the bowl game, Terry Mohajir, director of athletics, has announced.

Thompson had been serving as defensive coordinator at ASU under Gus Malzahn, who became the new head coach at Auburn on Tuesday.

Thompson, a coaching veteran with over 30 years experience at the collegiate level as both an assistant and head coach, will oversee A-State's preparations for the upcoming Bowl and coordinate the Red Wolves' efforts in the game at Mobile, Ala.

"Not only does Coach Thompson's wealth of experience make him an excellent fit to assume the role of interim head coach, but he is also man of character with great leadership qualities who has earned a great deal of respect from this administration and the players," said Mohajir.  "We are confident he will help our football program make a smooth transition into the postseason, while also giving this team a tremendous opportunity to finish the season on a successful note in the Bowl."

After careful consultation with ASU's football?players and multiple conversations with coach Malzahn, it was Mohajir's recommendation to Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson that it was best for the athletes and the A-State football program if  Malzahn concentrated on his responsibilities at Auburn.

As defensive coordinator and linebackers coach this season, Thompson oversaw Arkansas State's defense that ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring defense and third in total defense.  The Red Wolves had a league-high 10 All-Sun Belt Conference selections, including first-team choices Nathan Herrold at linebacker and Ryan Carrethers on the defensive line.

"We have a mature group of players with strong leadership, and I am certain this team and coaching staff is going to rise to the occasion," said Thompson.  "The team has improved on a weekly basis, and we expect it to continue to get better and compete at an even higher level.  This has been a special season and everyone associated with this program wants to finish the year strong, none more so than our players and coaches.  I know we will continue to show the same commitment we demonstrated all year that resulted in a Sun Belt Conference championship."

He served as UCA's athletic director in 2006 before leaving to go to Ole Miss to become defensive coordinator for Ed Orgeron.