Rochelle in the mix to fill spot

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Sean Rochelle (left), pictured in this 2009 file photo with former Arkansas basketball coach John Pelphrey, has worked with the Razorback Foundation since 2008.
Photo by Sarah Nader
Sean Rochelle (left), pictured in this 2009 file photo with former Arkansas basketball coach John Pelphrey, has worked with the Razorback Foundation since 2008.

— The Razorback Foundation is going to have its third executive director in less than a year.

Chris Wyrick is resigning as executive director after five months on the job as Harold Horton’s replacement to become Arkansas’ new vice chancellor for university advancement.

Sean Rochelle, an associate director at the Razorback Foundation since 2008, is expected to be promoted to succeed Wyrick, according to multiple sources.

The Razorback Foundation is a private fund-raising arm of the Arkansas’ athletic department.

“Sean certainly would be a high-level candidate,” said Fayetteville attorneyKen Mourton, who is chairman of the Razorback Foundation board. “He’s an Arkansas guy, a great person, and he’s done an excellent jobat the foundation. I think he has the utmost respect of everyone.”

Mourton said the board must meet to decide on Wyrick’s replacement and that he expects an announcement on a new executive director within a week and possibly sooner.

Wyrick said he “100 percent” supports Rochelle to be the executive director, adding the decision will be up the Razorback Foundation board with input from Athletic Director Jeff Long.

“I am a huge Sean Rochelle fan,” Wyrick said. “He has the background in Arkansas.”

Rochelle, 45, is an Elkins native. He played quarterback at Arkansas-Monti-cello and earned his bachelor’s degree from UAM, then earned master’s and doctorate’s degrees from Arkansas. He worked as an assistant director for development for both men’s and women’s athletics at Arkansas before moving to the Razorback Foundation.

“He’s known across the state,” Wyrick said. “He’s worked with every Razorback Club, so at the grassroots level he knows all of the donors. He’s been a tremendous right hand guy. He has the ability to relate to people and to lead people.

“Sean is somebody I have great admiration and respect for.”

Rochelle attended a newsconference Wednesday at which Wyrick’s new job was announced, but he left immediately afterward and didn’t talk with members of the media. Rochelle couldn’t be reached for comment later Wednesday.

Norm DeBriyn, the Razorbacks’ baseball coach for 33 years and an associate director at the Razorback Foundation, said he believes Rochelle “will be the person taking over” for Wyrick.

“I think the transition will be good,” DeBriyn said. “Sean is a very focused individual that has his doctorate degree and a lot of experience. His leadership skills are good, and I think he’ll do well. It’s very important to have continuity.”

Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart spoke highly of Rochelle but stressed the appointment of the new executive director will be a decision made the Razorback Foundation board with Long’s input.

“Sean’s a good man,” Gearhart said. “I think he’s done a fabulous job for the university. I think he’s got the full support of the board.”

Gearhart said Wyrick will stay at the Razorback Foundation long enough to have a smooth transition, but that he expects him to begin in his new job by this spring or summer.

Rochelle was considered a candidate for the executive director’s position last summer when Horton announced his retirement, but Wyrick was hired after being an Arkansas senior associate athletic director for development the previous four years.

Gearhart said he began having discussions with Longabout two weeks ago regarding hiring Wyrick for the UA fund-raising position.

“I was a little worried about Jeff’s reaction, but he was just fantastic about,” Gearhart said. “He said, ‘Look, this is a great promotion for him.’ He embraced it, which is always good.”

Mourton praised the job Wyrick has done in his short time at the Razorback Foundation.

“We’re sorry to see Chris leave, but certainly we understand when someone has a chance to better themselves,” Mourton said.

Wyrick, 45, said he expected to be at the Razorback Foundation for many years.

“This is not something I was pursuing,” Wyrick said of his new job. “But when the chancellor calls, you certainly are going to listen.”

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/14/2013