Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Razorback Report: Yurachek to speak with congressmen
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during the Razorbacks' football game against Liberty on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek will be among a group of SEC leaders who will travel to Washington on Wednesday to speak with members of Congress about Name, Image and Likeness.
Other SEC athletics directors and some head coaches will also travel to Washington, Yurachek said. None of the Razorbacks’ coaches will be in attendance.
Yurachek said he will speak with at least three members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation, but did not say which ones. Two former Razorback football players are members of the state delegation, Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Bruce Westerman.
SEC leaders are hopeful for federal legislation to provide oversight for NIL, which is regulated now at the state level.
“We need some congressional help because what’s happened is states have formed their own state laws around Name, Image and Likeness, so the NCAA has no hope now because state laws trump any type of NCAA bylaws,” Yurachek said Tuesday while speaking at Blair Library during the State of Athletics luncheon hosted by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. “We need federal intervention to help us get our arms around Name, Image and Likeness.”
NIL was a topic of discussion last week when SEC commissioner Greg Sankey met with athletics directors and head coaches from football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball at the league’s annual spring meeting in Destin, Fla.
“This is an opportunity to focus on athletics and some of the pressures that we’re facing and communicate that, given the realities in college athletics, Congress is the place that can fix the issues that we have," Sankey said.
“Certainly we can continue to deal with state-by-state decisions, deal with litigation, deal with conference-by-conference decisions, wonder if the NCAA can fix things. We understand Congress can fix things, so that’s an important conversation, communicating about what we’ve learned of the positive attributes about Name, Image and Likeness…from our student-athletes. We also heard from them concerns and their desire for a uniform national standard. Those are clear points of communication that we have to continue to reinforce.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban will be among those in attendance Wednesday. He told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the existing system does not work the same for everybody because NIL benefits vary from school to school based on state laws.
"I think that the whole idea is, we want to provide information based on our experience, so that maybe people that are involved in the House and Senate both sort of have an idea of what the issues really are and how it can impact and affect college football in the future," Saban told AP.
Yurachek said NIL has become a challenge, primarily in recruiting. Yurachek said NIL is not supposed to be used as an “inducement,” but acknowledged “it’s happening everywhere.”
“Young men and women are making decisions not to go to Major League Baseball or the WNBA or the NBA because they can make more money in college,” Yurachek said. “Does that make any sense, that you can make more money by staying in college than you can by going and being a professional athlete? That’s where we have some issues in college athletics.”
Arkansas has sold more than 45,000 season tickets for the upcoming football season.
“We think we can get 50,000 season tickets sold this year, which would be the most since the Bobby Petrino era,” Yurachek said. “That just shows how [football coach] Sam Pittman has kind of taken that program and embraced the state of Arkansas, and it’s reflective in how many people want to come to our games.”
The Razorbacks’ home schedule this year includes games against Kent State on Sept. 9, BYU on Sept. 16, Mississippi State on Oct. 21, Auburn on Nov. 11, Florida International on Nov. 18 and Missouri on Nov. 24.
Arkansas is scheduled to open the season with a game against Western Carolina on Sept. 2 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Tickets to that game are sold separate from the season-ticket package for the Razorbacks’ home games in Fayetteville.
Basketball ticket prices will increase from $450 to $520 per seat in the lower level. Yurachek said it is the first price increase for Arkansas basketball tickets in several years.
“I don’t believe we’ve had a ticket increase in the Eric Musselman era and obviously we have a much better product that we’re offering on the court now,” Yurachek said. “SEC basketball in and of itself is better. We’ve got the SEC-ACC Challenge that we hope to have a home game in this year.”
Arkansas’ home basketball games have been sold out for the past two seasons and Yurachek expects that to be the case again in 2023-24.
Multiple projects are underway at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Yurachek said crews are working to replace the south end zone video scoreboard and LED ribbon boards. They are also constructing two new suites in the Founders Level and a bar area atop the north end zone.
That area will be called Big Red’s Rooftop Bar, Yurachek said, and will be similar to the area known as Macke’s Bases Loaded Landing at Baum-Walker Stadium. The new area in the north end zone will include about 100 seats along a railing, and an additional 150 to 200 around the bar.
“We anticipate that being open on Friday nights when we light the stadium red,” Yurachek said. “We’ll have a live band up there and that can be a place where Razorback fans can come gather and get ready for Saturday’s game. We’re just trying to continue to provide more opportunities for Razorback fans to view the football games, baseball games and basketball games in a different setting.”
Speaking the day after Arkansas' baseball team was eliminated with a 12-4 loss to TCU at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional, Yurachek reflected on the season.
The Razorbacks finished with a 43-18 record and shared the SEC regular-season championship with Florida. SEC coaches voted Arkansas' Dave Van Horn as league coach of the year.
Yurachek praised Van Horn's ability to keep the team on track despite multiple season-ending injuries to top players, and multiple other injuries that sidelined starters for several games.
"He deserved to be coach of the year because he was able to keep this team moving forward," Yurachek said. "We won the SEC championship, which is a very hard championship…because that is such a grind.
"I think in the end we ran into a really good TCU team that this weekend they were just a better baseball team. And I think we were a little tired. The injuries throughout the season caught up with us in the end, but what a great season for our baseball program."
Scottie Bordelon contributed
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