Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in op-eds are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or About You Media Group.
by Nate Olson
As I settled into a booth at Hughey’s in Memphis on Saturday afternoon and looked at the TV, Western Kentucky was already throttling Arkansas in the first half. I knew what was coming next. By halftime, people were calling and texting asking about Chad Morris’ future.
I monitored the situation from afar as I enjoyed a weekend with my family in Memphis on Saturday and the Chiefs/Titans game Sunday.
Once Morris was fired, the question I got and keep getting is ‘Who Arkansas is going to hire?’ My answer, ‘I have no idea,’ which is more honest than some in-state media members who throw out names for the sake of it or claim to have an inside source. Sure, I have a few names that seem like a logical fit, but I really quit predicting these things when Jeff Long plucked Bret Bielema out of Madison, Wisc. If any media member claims to have known Bielema was coming here, they aren’t being honest.
So, on to what I do know – Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek will make the right hire. Former UA interim AD Julie Cromer Peoples and Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz already started the paperwork on the Morris hire before his hiring had become official. Yurachek gave his approval, but at that point, what was done was done. Yurachek didn’t really have a choice at that point as the clock ticked.
After nearly two seasons of horrible football, Yurachek had seen enough, and is now is going to have a chance to hire the right coach and run the search his way – the right way. I don’t think Arkansas will ever try to hire an AD and a football coach at the same time again. Hopefully, it was a lesson learned. It was a recipe for disaster.
A disaster, Yurachek must clean up while Cromer Peoples is serving as the AD at Ohio University. As Yurachek mentioned in the news conference Monday, this is a hire he must get right. He knows if Arkansas hires the wrong coach this time, it may never get out of the abyss. The program is at its lowest point in history and must find someone who can pull it back out of the depths. It won’t be easy and will require a coach who can recruit and run the tightest of programs. There is no structure currently. The team desperately needs that.
Yurachek is cutting his teeth in Power 5 administration at Arkansas, but I have faith in him because of how he handled the men’s basketball situation last season. Former Coach Mike Anderson was in a rut and Yurachek reportedly wanted to see changes. Anderson resisted, and that was the end of his tenure.
Then, the rumors started that Yurachek would hire Kelvin Sampson, who he managed at Houston. However, after a deep NCAA Tournament run, Sampson got an extension. Yurachek responded with the wild card hire of Nevada’s Eric Musselman. So far, Musselman has been a breath of fresh air. He has checked all of the boxes and looks well on his way to building a solid program.
Yurachek also made a good hire at Houston when he tabbed current Texas coach Tom Herman as the Cougars’ head man. Herman had been the OC at Ohio State. He went on to win the American Conference Coach of the Year in 2015 and finished with a 22-4 record at Houston in two seasons before taking the job at Texas.
While Yurachek’s current hiring process may be on the biggest stage with the most pressure, Yurachek has shown he can deliver.
Whether it’s a veteran coach, up-and-comer or coordinator, Yurachek will make sure he hires someone who can recruit and handle a major rebuild, whether it’s with a wealth of experience or a youthful exuberance.
Morris was a mistake. A mistake Yurachek shouldn’t be held accountable for. He has a chance to make the right hire he should have been a part of two years ago.