FAYETTEVILLE - Newly hired University of Arkansas Razorbacks Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek promised the UA and Razorbacks fans he’s arrived listening and learning over initially directing and asserting.
The University of Houston athletic director since 2014 and previously the athletic director at Coastal Carolina, Yurachek said he had never been to Fayetteville before until arriving Tuesday night then meeting with the Razorbacks men’s and women’s programs coaches, administrators and support staffs Wednesday morning followed by a morning press conference introduction to Arkansas media.
Acknowledging his lack of previous ties to Arkansas and while never mentioning, but no doubt aware that previous Athletic Director Jeff Long, 2008 until fired Nov. 15, paid a public relations price for upon arrival appearing with more preconceived ready-made answers than asking questions regarding the Razorbacks and succeeding Arkansas icon Frank Broyles as athletic director, Yurachek stressed listening and learning throughout the press conference also featuring the man who hired him, Joe Steinmetz, the Chancellor of the UA’s Fayetteville campus.
“I think most you are aware by now that I am not from Arkansas and I have very few ties to the state,” Yurachek said. “But I will tell you I’m a quick study. Right now I have very few answers and so many questions. I am going to ask those questions to a number of people and listen intently and gain a complete understanding of the culture here at the University of Arkansas and across this great state.”
During his interview with Steinmetz in Houston, Yurachek presented a “100 day plan” of spending many of his first 100 days on the job traveling the state and listening and learning.
“My life, both professional and personal, will quickly adapt to this culture,” Yurachek said. “I promise you, each and every one of you across this state, that myself and family will become engrossed in this state and this community and become a part of its fabric.”
The Razorbacks part in that fabric is nationally known, Yurachek said.
“It’s an honor to be in this position of being the vice-chancellor and director of athletics and to embrace the history and heritage and tradition of Razorbacks athletics that includes countless conference championships, national championships, bowl games, Final Four appearances, Olympic medalist student-athletes and incredible leaders such as Frank Broyles,” Yurachek said. “This is truly a special, special place.”
Yurachek said the Broyles legacy, Broyles died last August retired at 92 after being elected to the College Football Hall of Fame coaching the Razorbacks from 1958-76 and nationally renowned as Arkansas’ athletic director from 1974-2007, always brings attention to Arkansas including his.
“ I remember him being fiery and passionate,” Yurachek said. “I think everybody enjoyed meeting him. I think he made everybody feel like they were special. That's what I strive to do as well.”
Yurachek seemed most brought to Steinmetz’s attention by former NCAA women’s golf champion and current LPGA standout Stacy Lewis. Lewis was one of a 7-member advisory committee assisting on the athletic director’s search. Lewis and Lewis; husband, Gerrod Chadwell, know Yurachek well.
Chadwell has coached the Cougars’ women’s golf team since 2013.
However Yurachek said he believed Lewis, who accompanied Steinmetz when he interviewed Yurachek last Saturday morning in Houston did more convincing to him about Arkansas than she did convincing Steinmetz about him.
“ I know there is the impression that maybe Stacy gave me an advantage,” Yurachek said. “She gave me an advantage because she gave some great insight into the University of Arkansas. She did great job selling me more on the opportunity than selling me as a candidate to the people here. She was a great resource for me as I was preparing for my interview. She did a great job selling. She was passionate about the University of Arkansas.”
Steinmetz, lauding Yurachek throughout the press conference and noting he was the 2014 FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) Athletic Director while still at Coastal Carolina, credited Lewis for her role in the search.
“She was very, very valuable in the end to help us to decide if Hunter was the right person,” Yurachek said. “I’m really indebted to Stacy for that. She stepped up and did a fantastic job for us.”
Opening and closing his press conference thanking Steinmetz for providing him the opportunity to come to Arkansas, Yurachek also thanked University of Houston President Renu Khator for providing him the opportunity there. He stressed the relationship he had with Khator and what he feels is athletics relationship to the universities of which it is a part.
“ I am a true believer that the department of athletics is indeed a front porch of major universities,” Yurachek said. “Being the front porch does not mean it is the most important room in the house but it is indeed the most visible room in the house, It provides a first impression. It provides a great sense of pride for all of its constituents. When our student-athletes at the University of Arkansas have success academically, athletically and in their personal development, our coaches will have success. The Razorbacks athletic program, the front porch of the University of Arkansas, will be a sense of pride for this community and for this state. And will do so through the success of our student-athletes.”
Yurachek stressed it’s an inclusive front porch welcoming support.
“I promise you it’s a big front porch,” Yurachek said. “And there’s room for everybody.
While committed to the Razorbacks’ all-sports programs in men’s and women’s athletics, Yurachek said it’s imperative that football “drives the train.”
“It’s really what drives your revenue,” Yurachek said. “We have other very, very nationally competitive sports here at the University of Arkansas, but for our entire athletic program to be successful year in and year out, we need our football program to be successful year in and year out, not only in the Southeastern Conference, but nationally.”
Mostly struggling the last six years with 4-8 in 2012 under interim Coach John L. Smith followed by 3-9, 7-6, 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8 under Bret Bielema, fired on Nov. 24 and replaced Wednesday by SMU Coach Chad Morris with Yurachek’s late input to Interim Athletic Director Julie Cromer Peoples supervising and completing the football coaching search, football will improve with Wednesday’s hire, Yurachek asserted.
“We're in the process of hiring the right football coach,” Yurachek said, shortly before the UA’s official release announcing Morris’ hiring. “And I think you're going to see great things from our football program.”
Jennifer Yurachek, Hunter Yurachek’s wife, was introduced by both here husband and Steinmetz during Wednesday’s press conference.
They have three sons, two in Houston Wednesday attending high school and junior high school, and one playing football as a tight end at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.