New AD Yurachek knows football priority No. 1 for Arkansas

Razorback athletic director Yurachek wants to be nationally competitive on the gridiron

By Bart Pohlman

Hunter Yurachek didn’t mince words when it came to Arkansas football.

The Razorbacks’ new athletic director made it clear what needs to happen to the Hog football program when he was introduced Wednesday.

“Really what we need is a football program that competes for championships in the Southeastern Conference,” Yurachek said. “That’s what drives the train. It really is what drives your revenue. It creates that brand perception that you need. We have other very, very competitive, nationally competitive sports here at the University of Arkansas. But for our entire athletic program to be successful year in and year out, we need our football program to be successful year in and year out. Not only in the Southeastern Conference, but nationally.”

In 26 seasons of play in the SEC, the Razorbacks have only been to the league’s championship game three times. In fact, Arkansas is just 91-116-2 all time in SEC play.

But success in the league means success nationally: The SEC has won eight of the past 11 national championships, and has had a team in 10 of the past 11 championship games.

While Yurachek wants Arkansas football to become nationally competitive, he’s not interested in having crazy coaching contracts and buyouts.

“We’ve got to get a handle on coach contracts and the buyouts,” Yurachek said. “To me, losing football games is being terminated with cause. The protection sometimes that coaches are provided within their contracts to me is ludicrous. I want to be a leader in this industry in how we write our coaches contracts moving forward so that there’s not 100 percent guaranteed protection for their contracts.”

“For someone the likes of Kevin Sumlin to get paid 100 percent of his contract, $10 million, I think that was a mistake,” Yurachek said. “I’m not at a Texas A&M. I know they’re in a conference and we compete with them and they’ll probably hold that against me for telling you that. But that’s a mistake in our industry. It’s not a sustainable model moving forward.”

In keeping with those thoughts, new Arkansas football coach Chad Morris will make a base salary of $3.5 million annually over six years. His buyout, should the university terminate his contract without cause, starts at $14.7 million if he’s fired before 2019, and then drops to $12.25 million in 2019, $9.8 million in 2020, $7.35 million in 2021, $4.9 million in 2022 and $3.5 million in 2023. The buyout is not mirrored, with a significantly lesser penalty should Morris leave for another job.

It’s all part of a championship equation Yurachek wants to put together at Arkansas.

“When our student-athletes at the University of Arkansas have success academically, athletically and in their personal development, our coaches will have success, our department will have success and the university will experience success, and its front porch will indeed be a great sense of pride across the state of Arkansas,” he said.

“A vision not to be good, but rather to be the best is obtainable here at the University of Arkansas.”