Hunter Yurachek Q & A: Future of Spring Football & Hog Sports

Hunter Yurachek

Practically the entire sports world has been put on hold, thanks to a damn virus.

Since all winter and spring college sports have been cancelled, we have seen the last of Jimmy Whitt* and Adrio Bailey in Razorback uniforms— and likely Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad as well. This is no fun, to say the least.

Was shutting down the College World Series, which occurs in June, too immature?

Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

We won’t know that an answer until we see how quickly the coronavirus spreads in the coming weeks.

But Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek sure wishes he hadn’t read the SEC’s decision on Twitter with the rest of the public. “I know we’re working in a very imperfect environment right now, in an unprecedented environment, but I would have liked to have the opportunity to discuss those decisions with our coaches, and then with our student athletes, and that they find out from the right means, not through social media,” he recently said in a press conference.

“I don’t have a great solution for how that could’ve been delivered better, but I know there’s a better way to deliver that message then for me to find out when I landed back from Nashville yesterday, and for my student athletes and our coaches to find out. So again, I’m not saying it was the incorrect decision, especially for our winter sports.

“We had to make some decisions quickly in regards to the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, gymnastics, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, those championships that were imminent, but for our spring sports championships, those that are going to be held in late May and June, I don’t think that was a decision that needed to be delivered yesterday.”

Below is some of the rest of the Q & A with Yurachek about the future of Razorback sports in this most unusual time:

“Is there a scenario where baseball and other spring sports resume after April 15th? With spring football, is it reasonable to expect that you can get all 15 practices in?

Hunter Yurachek: “I’ll start with the spring football issue. I don’t think that without some type of waiver, or some type of provision within our legislative body, that spring football can finish. We have to be done, based on our academic calendar, by the date April 25th. So that’s not going to happen. That will be one of the things we ask the NCAA as a conference for some legislative relief.

“Whether that happens during the month of May, or if there’s some coaching that can take place during the summer that normally cannot happen in the sport of football, as well as for soccer and volleyball, or other fall sports that normally would be preparing for their fall season this time of the year. As far as our spring sports and those championships, I think it’s still very much up in the air, any decisions on how to proceed.

“I think it will be extremely challenging for our student athletes and our coaches, after taking a month off, to quickly start a season back up again. So you got to think of just the timing of that. If we are able to start practicing again sometime after April 15th, how many weeks of preparation you need to get ready to start a season again. It’s going to be a challenge.”

On whether student-athletes in spring springs are free to leave campus, since all classes are now online:

Yurachek: “We have encouraged our student athletes and their families to make decisions that are in their best interest at this point. It’s not about them being student athletes here, it’s about them personally, so we’ve encouraged them… For some of our student athletes, in their best interest may be to stay here on campus, in our residence halls, or in their own apartments that they have off campus. But we want really families to make that decision. I don’t want that burden to make that decision for them.”


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Have you had any contact with athletes at this point? What is their morale like, especially for these seniors?

Yurachek: “They’re struggling. Our student athletes, not only here at the University of Arkansas, but across the country are struggling, especially seniors. You had some seniors that were prepared to compete for Southeastern Conference Championship, some that had trained very hard to compete for national championships, and that’s been taken away from them.”

“I’m not sure, as I walked around the Jones Center today, that it’s sunk in for most of our student athletes yet. That realism that their careers, especially if you’re a senior, may have come to an abrupt ending. And that is the case if you’re in the sports of basketball, or swimming, or gymnastics. It may not be the case for our spring sports, but that’s yet to be determined.”

How hard was it to talk about what’s happening right now with those coaches, and what were those coaches’ reactions?

Yurachek: “We had a coaches meeting today and at lunchtime. I think they’re all very understanding. They’re all in shock, but I think they’re very understanding of what we’re going through as a country, and really has a world right now with the Coronavirus. So I think they’re very understanding, but obviously they are disappointed as well. And they’re disappointed for our student athletes, because they know how hard they pushed them, how hard our student athletes have trained, and what this means to them to not have the opportunity to continue to compete.

The NCAA has the Coronavirus advisory panel that they’ve cited a number of times in the last couple of days. Do you know how much the SEC’s decision making is being informed from that panel? Are there other sources that are being used?

Yurachek: “I believe Commissioner [Greg] Sankey is using other sources. There’s not been a great deal of communication, to my knowledge, between the conference officers and the NCAA.

The NCAA also put out an advisory about relief for student athletes in terms of their scholarship for spring students. To your knowledge, is the advisory applicable already? Can those students who were on scholarship this spring have another season of eligibility granted?

Yurachek: “I think it’s something that’s in discussion right now. I mean there’s a lot that goes into that. It’s just not about gaining another year of eligibility for your seniors. I mean, you’ve got juniors, and sophomores, and freshmen that have also lost potentially a season of eligibility. There’s scholarship limit implications that go along with that.

“If you let your seniors come back and you’ve got incoming freshmen, you will obviously go over your scholarship and roster limits for any sports. So it’s just not as simple as saying everyone gets a year back. There’s a lot more discussion about the details, before you can say that’s going to happen.

PS: Since this press conference, the NCAA announced in a statement it believes “eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports.” Spring sports include baseball, golf, lacrosse, softball, tennis and outdoor track and field. 

“Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time. Additional issues with the NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks.”

Presumably, some of these issues will include whether Razorback winter sports student-athletes will be eligible for an extra season of play. Winter sports include basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, wrestling and swimming and diving. The postseasons for those sports were scheduled for the coming weeks and into April.


Still want to watch Jimmy Whitt compete?

Lucky you. Jimmy Buckets is on Twitch practically all the time, killin’ it at Call of Duty: Warzone:

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