The first University of Kentucky gymnastics coaching search since the 1970s concluded Friday, June 6, 2003 when UK assistant Hajile "Mo" Muhammad was chosen as the GymKats' new head coach, director of athletics Mitch Barnhart announced.
Muhammad, twice named Assistant Coach of the Year at the NCAA Regional Championship (1999 and 2002), has spent the past six years as the top assistant under Coach Leah Little, who announced her retirement last month after leading the team since 1974.
"I am absolutely thrilled about the opportunity Mitch Barnhart has given me to lead this program, which I care about so deeply," Muhammad said. "Coach Little left a solid foundation to work with and the possibilities for this team are limitless. I am very excited to move forward and push this group to the next level."
"Mo has been a part of the collegiate gymnastics community for many years and has earned the opportunity to become a head coach at an NCAA Division I program," Barnhart said. "His ability to recruit quality gymnasts to our program hopefully will allow us to continue to build upon the tradition which Leah Little started."
Muhammad has been in charge of the Wildcats' recruiting efforts for the past six years. His efforts have been aided by deep ties throughout all levels of amateur gymnastics, including previous experience coaching at high schools and private clubs.
Prior to coming to Kentucky, Muhammad taught at Gizi's Gymnastics in Houston for eight years. In Texas, he also worked briefly with former Olympic coach Bela Karolyi. Muhammad's club coaching career began in Lansing, Mich., with the Capital City Kips.
"Coach Mo," as he is called by his gymnasts, started coaching gymnastics as a sophomore in college, when he was an assistant at Lansing Eastern High School. In his second year, Muhammad was promoted to head coach and led the team to its first conference championship.
Throughout his coaching career, Muhammad has motivated gymnasts to perform at their best. He has coached numerous state, regional and national champions and was successful in developing a number of gymnasts who competed at the elite level.
As a club coach, a large percentage of Muhammad's gymnasts were offered college scholarships. At UK, he has been an integral part of developing Aronda Primault, one of two seniors who return for the 2004 GymKats, into a 2002 All-American. The Cats will return nine gymnasts from the 2003 squad, including four juniors and three sophomores, and also will welcome an impressive recruiting class.
A native of Chicago, Muhammad graduated from the University of Houston in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in Engineering Technology - Piping and Design.