Yurachek Opens Up on Why The Beard/Tang Chatter Vexed So Much

Hunter Yurachek, Chris Beard, Jerome Tang, Arkansas basketball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Ole Miss Athletics / KSU Athletics

Call it the Obama Effect. Or the Trump Effect. Whichever you ultimately choose depends on your political point of view. Whatever happened, whenever it happened, Americans lost their desire for legitimate news reporting. They largely abandoned facts and instead hitched their proverbial wagon to their favorite side, ignoring those whose raison d’etre was the exposure of information that the powerful did not want exposed, lest it alter perception or, even – to the powerful – worse, reality. 

In the arena of political journalism, this is old hat in the U.S. But over the course of the last 20 years or so, such thinking has seeped into just about every facet of consumption. Your favorite video game or movie got a bad review? The critic just wants to tank it. Have a bunch of calls go against your favorite team? The refs are out to get ‘em. Social media exacerbated these beliefs and the phenomenon is only getting worse. Tribalism reigns.

Which leads us to the local tribe, which for weeks badly needed a win. Arkansas football coming off a 4-8 season has left a sour taste in the mouths of Razorbacks supporters up and down the ladder. Basketball’s first losing season in almost 15 years saw the exit of coach Eric Musselman to Southern California, a traditionally inferior basketball program. The hiring of former Kentucky head coach John Calipari was the exact coup the Razorbacks needed, especially after Chris Beard chose to stay at Ole Miss and Jerome Tang extended with Kansas State. 

Chris Beard and Jerome Tang Misses?

Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said he never offered Beard or Tang the Arkansas basketball job, although he did talk to a total of eight coaches about it. At least one report claimed Beard declined a non-compete clause in any potential deal. A quick scan of this thing called the World Wide Web shows zero legitimate reports that Tang was ever offered.

Neither fact stopped Yurachek from going into a modest defensive posture when asked during a recent interview with Bo Mattingly on Hogs+ about the circumstances surrounding the process of hiring a new basketball coach. Mattingly asked if Yurachek was bothered by reports that Arkansas missed on its first two candidates. 

“Sure it does, because I’m a competitor. And it bothers me more when it’s such false information,” Yurachek said.

“(Calipari is) the only coach that I had any discussion with regarding the terms,” the AD continued. “He was the only coach that was offered this position. People can believe that or not believe that. I’m telling you, he was the only coach that was offered the position.” And he was on pins and needles for a while as to whether Calipari would accept:

Yurachek explained exactly how tight his circle of confidantes was during the entire process:

“There’s three people: myself, Ted Dickey from our board and Matt Trantham, our associate AD, who knows everything that happened during this search, three people who have inside information and know exactly what happened,” Yurachek said. “Everything else is pure speculation.”

Even elementary-school-aged Scout Finch knew it was more important to listen than to watch when someone tells you something. And in this case, the lady doth protest too much, methinks. No legitimate journalist appears to have stated the job was ever offered to Beard or Tang. Of course, the false information Yurachek refers to here could very well be the work of poseurs. Abandonment of such legitimate news entities has resulted in a bevy of influencers with no formal training and sometimes even fewer ethics.

Even in the one report, the words are chosen carefully: Beard walked when a non-compete was added to the negotiation. They were the first two candidates to have declined further negotiations.

Big Ol’ Catch for Arkansas Basketball

In the end, Yurachek and the Razorbacks reeled in their marlin and it’s a record-sized fish. John Calipari is the most decorated coach in Arkansas basketball history, even more than Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson if one wants to judge based on number of Final Fours. It may take some time for Calipari to reach their levels of exaltation Hogs fans shower those other two icons of Fayetteville, certainly, but from a sheer resume standpoint, Calipari’s is at the top of the Arkansas basketball stack.

Odd then, the defensiveness.

Yurachek didn’t give the interview, which lasted for more than a half-hour on video and could be edited by folks who ultimately have to answer to U of A athletics, to any current media member. He gave it to Hogs Plus, the quasi-journalistic public-relations arm, built as a capitalistic enterprise that assists in branding, narrative crafting.

The site is a fan’s one-stop-shop for all good Hogs news all the time. And don’t get it twisted, not a thing is wrong with having such an arm. It takes a lot of dollars to run an athletic department in the SEC. But also, don’t confuse flacks for actual journalists. One of them has an angle. The other does not.

If seeds of doubt can be sown, if the entity being reported on can discredit the entity doing the reporting and the people who the former need to believe it believe it, then the job is done. Agitprop isn’t just some archaic term one learns in high-school social studies. Or, it shouldn’t be, anyway.

In recent times we have, as a populace, decided brands deserve fealty, not people. This is why fans get so angry when coaches or players leave. Tramon Mark, for example, transferred to Texas, his home state, after one season at Arkansas, a season in which he led the Razorbacks in scoring and was unquestionably the team’s most consistent player. When he chose the Longhorns as his next team, suddenly, out of the woodwork come the cries of that he was overrated or didn’t play defense:

The flip side, of course, is that the players – you know, the ones to whom it all actually matters – often commit to a person, not a school. Certainly, the Razorbacks on Monday got a commitment from a promising 7-foot-2 Croatian because of this. Players actually have relationships with people. Fans, just brands. The dissonance is astounding, though to some extent this has always been true in sports. Geographical proximity is one of the biggest factors in picking our favorite teams. 

Occasionally those teams will alter, especially in youth when the world is made up of winners and losers and no one ever picks, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates or Arizona Cardinals as a favorite outside of steel country and the desert. When a fan-favorite player gets traded – or now, when a player enters the transfer portal – that player is oft considered a pariah. “He was overrated, anyway,” they say. Or, “I don’t want quitters; I want loyalty.”

Loyalty used to be to facts, now those are just made up. Loyalty was to those speaking truth to power. Now? Now it means whatever fits your side. And such a stance has left us arguing, Left or Right? Coke or Pepsi? Management or labor? The logo or the players? Whatever you do, don’t ever take sides with anyone who’s against the family again.


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