Missteps abound in Arkansas coaching situation

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, April 6, 2019
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during a football game against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during a football game against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- If it was a cow pasture instead of a coaching search, you might say Razorbacks Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek and the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees stepped in it.

That doesn't mean they can't clean most of the mess where they've stepped by hiring a good, ethical basketball coach.

It appeared they would, seeking Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall.

Reports waxed Thursday night that Marshall might be hired. By Friday afternoon word indicated Marshall was staying at Wichita State.

Of course, all with coaches and jobs is subject to change.

Meanwhile, the search goes on.

Arkansas should be wary of suffering the missteps suffered back in 2007 futilely chasing Billy Gillispie, hiring Dana Altman, who departed after one day on the job, then settling for John Pelphrey.

Pelphrey had just pursued the South Florida job claimed by just-fired Arkansas Coach Stan Heath.

Oh, for a Yurachek and Trustees do-over upon the March 26 misstep firing Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson.

They fired a good coach and better man. Not wise considering those ethically challenged falling under the severe scrutiny of the FBI investigation into college basketball illegalities.

This column devoted space to all that last Saturday. So we move on.

Misstep II: Yurachek earned high marks as athletic director replacing Jeff Long, the impersonal, corporate epitome whose major Arkansas objective seemed undoing what legendary predecessor Frank Broyles did.

Yurachek has sought inclusion. He re-established the premise that the Razorbacks belong to all of Arkansas.

But by holding no press conference to answer why he fired Anderson and not outlining his coaching search vision, Yurachek exhibited an arrogance beyond his predecessor.

The 'I fired the coach and will take no questions' press release doesn't fly.

Arkansas' public deserves transparency from its flagship public university. The UA did not bestow it.

Misstep III: Upon firing Anderson, Yurachek apparently planned to hire Kelvin Sampson, the University of Houston Cougars basketball coach hired just before Yurachek was promoted to Houston athletic director.

Even as the former Cougars AD, Yurachek apparently underestimated the University of Houston booster whose deep pockets and power allow him to function like a team owner.

Tilman Fertitta -- CEO of casinos, restaurants, NBA owner of the Houston Rockets and chairman of the University of Houston Board of Regents -- promised an offer Sampson likely wouldn't refuse. Sampson signed Thursday an extension through 2024-2025.

So it seemed Yurachek and the Trustees, the Board collectively approved firing Anderson for which Yurachek proffered public thanks, had to scramble.

Hope against faint hope is reported they plan their search to include presently preoccupied Chris Beard, the former one-year University of Arkansas-Little Rock coach whose Texas Tech Red Raiders play Michigan State in today's Final Four semifinal.

Given the UA pays the Bret Bielema buyout for its fired football coach and must pay what's owed Anderson and shied from the Sampson sweepstakes, imagine knowing Texas Tech intends significantly upping Beard's already six years for $19 million contract?

It's an expensive pasture on which the UA steps.

Sports on 04/06/2019

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