Board wields influence with Yurachek hire

Published 6 December 2017

Finally, some good news for the Razorback Nation.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville hired an athletic director Monday, Hunter Yurachek, Houston's AD and former AD at Coastal Carolina.

For some reason, UA board of trustees Chairman Ben Hyneman said the board took no action during its long, suddenly called meeting Monday. He added the chancellor would inform the media when he had made a decision.

None of the board was home when the Houston Chronicle broke the story on its website that Yurachek had stepped down at the University of Houston to assume the same role at Arkansas.

Why the state's largest school, the flagship university, wants to keep its fans in the dark is puzzling, but the fact is the board has kept the athletic fiasco from spiraling out of control.

It seems obvious the trustees have had great oversight and done much hand holding in the process of finding an AD. They knew the importance of finding an AD before a good football coach would seriously consider the job. And no, Gus Malzahn was never serious about leaving Auburn.

Kudos to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, who apparently was ready to hire someone else last week until he was told by board members to interview more candidates and almost immediately met with Yurachek.

Yurachek was thought to be on the Hogs' short list, and Steinmetz just happened to be in Houston last weekend for a fundraiser for flood victims and was at the Arkansas-Houston basketball game Saturday night.

The Cougars won the game, but they lost their popular AD to Steinmetz.

Yurachek was a four-year letterman at Guilford College, graduating in 1990. The Richmond, Va., native got his master's degree in sports management at the University of Richmond two years later and began an upwardly mobile career that saw him named FCS Athletic Director of the Year (2014), gain experience in the ACC and land at Houston as the assistant AD in 2014.

Apparently a sitting AD was important in Arkansas' search and smart on the part of the UA, as its athletic department has seemed to be in turmoil since the firing of AD Jeff Long on Nov. 15 and head football coach Bret Bielema on Nov. 24.

Yurachek appears to be an energetic, charismatic and smart leader. He will need to be as he sets out to heal the wounds, finish a $160 million project football stadium project and hopefully find a football coach. His Houston bio says he was instrumental in the hiring of Tom Herman as football coach.

Yurachek was the first piece of the puzzle at the UA, and it keeps Arkansas from falling behind the more talked about Tennessee, who seems content to fumble every possession away.

The biggest piece is finding a head football coach.

There are countless names and speculation about that hire, and time is of the essence. Proper vetting will eliminate some of the more discussed names.

It has been 11 days since Bielema was fired, and just 15 until the early signing period begins.

One thing is certain: The board of trustees is watching this closely. At a time when there appeared to be confusion and a lack of experience in the athletic department, those people stepped up to the plate.

Monday wasn't a regularly scheduled meeting, and the trustees spent almost three hours in executive session -- which is closed to the media -- and while it isn't their job to hire ADs or coaches, they obviously know the importance of getting it right for the UA and its loyal fans.

Sports on 12/05/2017