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Impressive Yurachek gets Razorback Nation

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Hunter Yurachek, director of athletics at the University of Arkansas, laughs Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, during the annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Hunter Yurachek, director of athletics at the University of Arkansas, laughs Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, during the annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.

Hunter Yurachek told the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday that he sat down the night before to get advice from his wife Jennifer on addressing the lunch bunch.

She told him don't try to be smart, funny or charming.

"She told me just be myself," said Yurachek, drawing the first of several laughs from the crowd.

Truth is, he was himself. He was a breath of fresh air laced heavily with realism.

In 40 minutes, he drew applause 11 times, not including his introduction and closing. Frank Broyles was the only athletic director from the University of Arkansas to draw that kind of reaction.

Yurachek was subtle in some ways, such as addressing the booing at Saturday's game. Saying the fans paid for the tickets and had a right to respond, he also said he hopes they would consider how they would react if that was their child or grandchild on the field.

He also discussed his unofficial tour around the state to get to know the Razorback Nation.

He teased about the fan base's concern over what soft drink is served at games, what type of Razorback should be at midcourt of Bud Walton Arena and what color of uniform is preferred. (He let it be known anthracite was not a popular answer.)

Yurachek kept it light, but the fact is he has traveled thousands of miles to meet and greet Razorback fans. Along the way, he has listened to what they want and expect from the Razorback program.

That was received as a refreshing change by the crowd.

He also wanted people to know about his core values and his passions -- in order, they are faith, family and college athletics.

"I can't remember a morning I didn't start with a cup of coffee and a devotional," he said.

He went right into family and then college athletics. He has a very clear picture of why attendance is declining at football games across America, and he has some solutions.

He shared that updates and additions were coming with a baseball clubhouse, a new lockerroom facility for the track teams and that a feasibility study on Bud Walton and Barnhill are planned.

Raised in Charlotte, N.C., Yurachek understands the need to chit-chat, to be friendly, to reach out to others.

He left no doubt football Coach Chad Morris has his support. He hinted at something most have started to suspect: This team needs more discipline and Morris will demand it.

"The first time we toured our great football facility, there were dirty clothes and trash on the floor," he said. "Not anymore. Chad took care of that immediately."

He shared that when he was at the SEC Championship Game in December that he sent a text to Morris. It was short, sweet and to the point. It read: "Houston. 2024."

That's the site of the 2024 national championship game, but Yurachek explained you can't make sweeping changes overnight. It takes time, and he's patient.

He thanked the LRTDC for hosting the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame inductions each year and talked about the importance of history and tradition. He gets it.

Yurachek shared his philosophy that graduating 90 percent of the athletes whose elibility just expired is great, but he wants 100 percent because his theory is that his job and the job of his coaches is to build Razorbacks for life.

Yurachek took some quesitons from the crowd and did not dodge bullets. He posed for every picture and did a short news conference when the lunch was over.

Hunter Yurachek was impressive.

Sports on 09/19/2018

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