Yurachek: Schools have autonomy on spring football decisions

By: Clay Henry
Published: Friday, March 13, 2020
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.

Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek provided clarity on a few things, but admitted that the decisions affecting spring sports on SEC campuses are still fluid.

What might be the case at 9 a.m. might change at noon. He said that was the case every day this week as decisions were made, then changed in response to the coronavirus.

Yurachek was the guest on the Morning Rush radio show Friday at 8:40 a.m., so that’s the timeline for what he said was the case at that point in the day.

On spring football, Yuracheck said that is the one area that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey gave schools “autonomy.” At least for the moment, those decisions are in the hands of each school. Yurachek seemed to think spring football on the Arkansas campus would be held.

“I can’t tell you anything for sure right now,” he said. "I am meeting with head coaches later this morning. There are also university groups meeting concerning the health and well being of our students.

“So it’s a very fluid situation (with spring football). The best case scenario – or at least one that could happen as of now – is that we would begin on schedule on Monday, practice for a week, then take a week off for Spring Break.”

Yuracheck said what would happen after Spring Break would be up for consideration, because football players would scatter across the country.

"It might be that we return and take two weeks off," Yurachek said. "When they scatter across the country, things can get hairy.

“But we have been given autonomy among conference members to make a lot of decisions on workouts.”

Yurachek said it is yet to be determined how workouts will be handled for spring sports such as baseball and softball. The NCAA canceled its championship events for those sports, but the SEC has yet to say whether it will cancel their regular seasons past March 30.

Yurachek said he was “disappointed” in the NCAA decision to cancel the spring sport championships so quickly.

“As the AD at Arkansas, I know as much as you do as to why the decision was made in haste," Yurachek said. "I found out about the press release (from the NCAA) when I landed in Fayetteville. I was really disappointed how a decision was made for sports that would be decided in May and June.”

For now, Yurachek said the overall goal is to just make sure “we are taking care of our student-athletes because they are dealing with things they have never had to deal with. We are not sure how to help them when you think of seniors who may have played their last game. We are trying to take care of them mentally.”

As far as extending a year of eligibility for players affected by the play stoppage, Yuracheck that would be his wish, but there are problems.

“Absolutely, I would,” he said. “But we will need some help with legislation to expand roster sizes because we have incoming freshmen. We might need a larger roster size for a year.”

Yurachek said it’s all been difficult to work through for all athletics directors.

“I’m not a medical professional,” he said. “So you are trying to make decisions based on third-party medical knowledge.”

That’s what was going on with SEC leaders in Nashville, Tenn., at the conference basketball tournament earlier in the week.

“And, it was changing so fast,” Yurachek said. “We’d make a decision, produce a press release and then it would change every hour.”

Would he like to see athletes stay on campus for Spring Break?

“Parents need to jump in,” he said. “We do have a controlled environment here. We do a great job of cleaning and that was even before we had the coronavirus.”

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