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Yurachek absorbs way of the Razorbacks

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2018
Hunter Yurachek, athletics director at the University of Arkansas, speaks Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, during a press conference to introduce Chad Morris as the university's newly hired football coach at the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Hunter Yurachek, athletics director at the University of Arkansas, speaks Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, during a press conference to introduce Chad Morris as the university's newly hired football coach at the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Hunter Yurachek was right on time, which took some effort.

It was 7:15 p.m. and his first meeting that day had been at 8 a.m. and his last one at 5 p.m., and he still fit in time for a stress-relieving run. The new University of Arkansas, Fayetteville vice chancellor and athletic director was starting something new Wednesday at the home basketball game.

He was having guests watch the game with him. He's going to do that for every home game he can, and it usually won't be media types such as Steve Sullivan, Bo Mattingly and yours truly.

The natural observation would be that with two of his first guests being from Little Rock, he realizes central Arkansas is important to the Razorbacks too. This is true, but it doesn't stop there: He said he wants to embrace the entire state.

Since his hiring Dec. 5, Yurachek his been in an all-out sprint, closing the books at the University of Houston, rushing to get his family to his oldest son's final college football game at Marshall, seeing his middle son -- a senior in high school -- make the transition from football to basketball and the same with his seventh-grade son.

There was also a family Christmas and a huge transition to the Razorbacks athletic program.

The Yuracheks are an athletic family. Yurachek played four years of basketball at Guilford College, where he got a degree in business management. He later earned his master's in sports management for the University of Richmond.

It's also a family that believes in academics. Oldest son Ryan caught 54 passes as a senior tight end but made the conference all-academic team, too. Middle son Jake is starting to get scholarship offers for football, and youngest son Brooks loves basketball, but loves football more.

Wife and mom Jennifer Yurachek is holding everything together in Houston until this summer -- when school's out and high school graduation is over -- to make the move to Arkansas.

Yurachek is in full-court-press mode, and the first observation of the new athletic director is he is a guy who lives easily in the world of white- and blue-collar workers. His own work ethic is nose to the grindstone.

He asked questions because he wants to learn more about the pride and tradition of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

He soaked up stories about the Razorbacks without offering opinions. He listened intently.

When it was time for the LSU-Arkansas basketball game, we were not whisked off to a private suite but instead sat in the stands. As expected, he had good seats, but from his vantage point he could completely watch the behind-the-scenes operation of the game.

It was an intersting game to be that close to the AD.

Once when a referee demanded a fan be ejected, Yurachek quickly and quietly got involved. Not in front of the crowd, but off to the side.

When the Razorbacks made a run he was squirming a little and yelling encouragement, but not too loudly. He never stepped foot on the court.

He's not an empire-builder, and he's not trying to be the face of the program. He's the CEO who keeps things flowing.

He cheered for the Razorbacks like he was one of them, and in this short time he seems to have started to make that jump.

He didn't make an entrance into the game, instead timing it so the fans were on their feet and focused on the game.

Yurachek is not afraid -- not of confrontation, a challenge or being himself. It appears he has hit the reset button for a total evaluation, but he has a game plan.

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