Hunter Yurachek favors most college basketball recommendations

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018
University of Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek, right, and chancellor Joseph Steinmetz speak during a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
University of Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek, right, and chancellor Joseph Steinmetz speak during a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek favors a number of recommendations made by the Commission on College Basketball in its extensive 60-page report Wednesday.

The report called upon the NCAA to seize control of the sport. The report was released seven months after the NCAA formed the group to respond to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball,

Among the more prevalent issues facing college basketball is the one-and-done rule implemented in 2006 that requires players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be eligible for the NBA Draft.

"One-and-done has to go one way or another," former Secretary of State and commission leader Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press yesterday.

In an interview with WholeHogSports on Wednesday, Yurachek said he is in favor of eliminating the one-and-done, and supportive of the baseball model, which allows players to be drafted out of high school but requires them to stay in college for at least three seasons, with some exceptions, if they enroll. The basketball commission decided against attempting to mirror rules for baseball, but said it may reconsider.

"I know the commission came out and said specifically they were not in favor of the baseball model either, but they were in favor of working with the NBA and the Players Association to eliminate the one-and-done," said Yurachek, who added he has not been at an institution throughout his career where the one-and-done was ever-present. "I don't know if that's the whole issue, but I do think that is a contributing factor to some of the issues that we have in college basketball.

"I'm in favor of (the baseball model). You can put your name in the hat for the NBA Draft, see where you fall, and if you're not drafted you can enter college, stay three years and you kind of have that same option your junior year where you can get drafted. OK, maybe that didn't work out for me the way I thought, then you come back for your senior year and not be penalized."

Yurachek said he thinks the one-and-done culture of college basketball has made the sport more challenging for fans to follow due to the yearly turnover of personnel, particularly at a number of the country's top programs. He also believes it has, in a sense, leveled the playing field.

"I don't know if there's the same kind of depth in college basketball, especially at the upper-tier," Yurachek said. "I think we had one of the more exciting college basketball seasons we've had in a long time with the parity that now exists in college basketball. I think the talent has spread itself out more. The one-and-done not staying for two, three, four years ... helped the parity in college basketball."

Another recommendation of the commission centers on more oversight of the AAU circuit. The commission wrote that the NCAA, with support of the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer and take a more urgent path toward certifying events it does not control.

Yurachek agrees there are issues with AAU basketball and the manner in which it is organized and run, but to say the NCAA should have oversight of that is a stretch, he said, and falls “way outside the umbrella of what the NCAA was formed to do.”

However, he is in favor of a commission that helps the NCAA monitor AAU basketball.

“That's where some of the problems lie, but I think it comes back to - and it was touched on in the report - it is inherent upon each of our individual campuses for the chancellors and presidents to hold the athletics director accountable, who are in turn holding the basketball programs accountable for operating above board and with the utmost integrity,” Yurachek said.

That self-policing would begin the clean-up process.

The commission also recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers. Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was later fired after being tied to the FBI investigation, received a five-game NCAA suspension for violations related to an assistant hiring an escort service to entertain recruits. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was handed a nine-game suspension for academic misconduct and extra benefits violations.

And in place of show-cause orders, the commission recommended lifetime bans, and added coaches should be “contractually obligated” to comply with NCAA investigations. Yurachek agreed that coaches who have reached significant levels of misconduct and integrity issues should “absolutely” receive bans, and favors the NCAA strengthening its penalty phase.

When asked if he believes Arkansas is a school compliant with NCAA guidelines, Yurachek said he has the utmost confidence in Mike Anderson, entering his eighth season as Razorbacks head coach this fall, and his staff.

In October 2017 at Arkansas’ annual basketball media day, Anderson labeled the FBI’s probe into college basketball as “stunning,” and stated he has surrounded himself with people who see the vision of doing things the right way at Arkansas.

Anderson added, “I think people across the country know that. We may not get some kids because of that, but I can go to sleep at night."

Anderson, last October, said he could not address specific instances of bribery by other schools in recruiting, but told reporters he has heard the same thing as the public through media reports.

Last week, the NCAA's Division I Transfer Working Group voiced support for a rule change that would eliminate a coach's ability to steer transfers away from certain programs. Justin Sell, athletics director at South Dakota State and chair of the working group, said the group will ask the Division I Council to move forward with a vote on the proposal in June.

Yurachek is in favor of not restricting where players may transfer, but believes, across all sports, athletes should spend a year in residency. Some sports, such as golf, track and soccer, allow athletes to transfer once without missing any playing time.

"That's one of the challenges of the committee that's evaluating transfer rules that you have some sports that you don't necessarily have to sit out a year right now,” he said, “so they're trying to marry all this together to make it equitable across all sports and has become a challenge.”

In regards to the recent transfers of Arkansas basketball players Darious Hall and C.J. Jones, who announced Wednesday their commitments to DePaul and Middle Tennessee State, respectively, Yurachek said those were cases in which Anderson “felt comfortable” releasing them to any institution without restriction.

The working group also is seeking feedback on a proposal that would require schools to count graduate transfers against scholarship limits for the duration of their time enrolled in a graduate program, even if it is after their eligibility has ended.

According to the NCAA, the working group will meet with conference leaders this spring to seek more feedback on the recommendations. NCAA members will vote on final proposals in June and, if approved, rule changes will go into effect in October.

Yurachek said the graduate transfer rule – allowing a student-athlete who has completed an undergraduate education, received a degree and wants to pursue a graduate degree not offered at their original school to transfer without penalty or year in residence – went down the wrong path quickly.

“That was a rule that was – for the lack of a better word – abused,” he said. “ … You can't just grab them from another institution and plug them in some entry-level classes and send them on their way.

"I haven't had this conversation with Coach Anderson," he said. But "the athletics director at Arkansas would be in favor of that."

Shortly after the commission released its detailed report Wednesday morning, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement.

“The Commission rightly focused its attention on a number of key issues affecting the sport, including agent certification and access, the one-and-done rule, grassroots basketball, and increasing the accountability applied to individuals and institutions who fail to meet the expectations for integrity in college athletics," Sankey wrote.

“While the report and recommendations won’t solve all of our challenges overnight, this represents an important step in a process to restore confidence in this great sport. We will now engage with our membership in evaluating the Commission’s proposals and providing constructive feedback to support the Division I Board of Directors decision making process.”

Yurachek believes the recommendations made in the commission’s report are a step in the right direction for the sport.

“I think there's a number – and I mean a significant number – of basketball programs that are doing it the right way and athletic departments that are doing it the right way,” he said.

“That's overshadowed by the few right now that maybe are not."

Information for this article was contributed by Matt Jones

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