Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
An era of unprecedented success is about to kick off at the University of Arkansas.
At least, that’s what newly hired athletic director Hunter Yurachek told reporters at his introductory press event held inside the UA’s Fowler Family Baseball & Track Indoor Training Center on Wednesday.
Yurachek was officially introduced as the new Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics by chancellor Joseph Steinmetz, who chose him from a list of about 50 candidates nationally.
“We found an extraordinary candidate who matched what we wanted in an AD,” Steinmetz said. “He cares about student athletes in every phase of their lives, not only on the court and in the field, but also as they relate to the community and in their studies. He has a proven track record of making smart coaching hires, and maintaining those all important relationships with those coaches. He is someone that others across the nation point to as one of the best, a true leader, with a vision for the future.
“Most importantly – and this was important to me – he understands what an amazing situation we have here at Arkansas, what the Razorbacks mean to our state, and the opportunity there is here to take this program to even greater and new heights,” Steinmetz said.
Yurachek comes to Arkansas from Houston, where he served as the AD for the Houston Cougars since 2015. He is a native of Virginia, and has spent time working at a host of programs around the country. Before his tenure at Houston, he served as the AD at Coastal Carolina. He has also worked at the University of Akron, The University of Virginia, Western Carolina University, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest University.
Yurachek acknowledged that he is not from Arkansas, and has very few ties to the state, but pledged to get to know the lay of the land here in a 100-day plan he presented to Steinmetz during the interview process.
“It really engages me into the university community, the Fayetteville community, the region, and the state,” Yurachek said of his 100-day plan. “It’s me getting around, asking questions of hundreds of people, listening intentionally, and learning about the culture here at this university, within our athletic program, within this community, and within the state.”
“I know I will never be a true ‘Arkans-i-an,'” he said. “But my goal is I will earn the right to be an honorary member sometime soon.”
Yurachek likened an athletics program to the “front porch” of the university.
“Being the front porch does not mean it is the most important room in the house, but it is indeed the most visibile room in the house,” he said. “It provides a first impression. It provides a great sense of pride for all its constituents.”
He pointed to the football program as an area he sees with the biggest opportunity for improvement.
“What we need is a football program that competes for championships in the Southeastern Conference,” he said. “That’s what drives the train. That’s what drives your revenue. That’s what creates that brand perception that we need. We have other very nationally competitive sports here at the UA, but for our 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 SEC, but nationally.”
Yurchek’s press conference took place Wednesday morning before the official announcement that the UA had hired former SMU head coach Chad Morris to lead that football program as its new head coach.
Yurachek did hint at his confidence in Morris, however.
“We are in the process of hiring the right football coach, and I think you are going to see great things from our football program,” he said.