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story.lead_photo.caption Hunter Yurachek was hired as Arkansas' athletics director on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Yurachek had spent 2 1/2 hours in the same role at Houston. - Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette

FAYETTEVILLE -- Until proven otherwise, expect many Razorbacks supporters to believe Monday's announced change in Arkansas athletics directors isn't really a change at all.

Just one more outsider they don't know replacing the outsider they felt never tried to know them.

Jeff Long was fired on Nov. 15 after 10 years as the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, athletics director because the Ohioan never established the lasting Arkansas relationships required for someone in that position. He is now replaced by another athletics director without prior Arkansas ties.

Hunter Yurachek, the athletics director at the University of Houston, was announced Monday as the Razorbacks' new AD by Joe Steinmetz, the Fayetteville campus chancellor imported in 2016 from Ohio State.

Under pressure from the UA Board of Trustees to oust Long, Steinmetz had explained that Long was fired because he "lost the support of many of our fans, alumni, key supporters and members of the university leadership." Long never attempted to establish the relationships that marked the iconic reign of Frank Broyles, Arkansas' College Hall of Fame head football coach from 1958-76 and Hall of Fame elected athletics director from 1974-2007.

A change to someone at least somewhat acquainted with the Broyles Arkansas era was initially anticipated but obviously did not occur.

Despite doing some good things that benefited the Razorbacks both athletically and academically, Long was perceived by many UA alums as turning a Razorbacks program that Broyles made Arkansans believe belonged to all of Arkansas into something more resembling a corporation most concerned with cold cash.

Yurachek arrives with much to prove at a hectic time. The Razorbacks still hunt for a head football coach after Bret Bielema was fired on Nov. 24 minutes after his Razorbacks lost to Missouri, closing a 4-8 overall, 1-7 in the SEC season.

Yurachek, whose athletic past ended with playing basketball at Guilford College, is among an increasing breed of marketing background athletic directors who never coached.

His background as athletic director at Coastal Carolina and the larger but basically one-city-based University of Houston, doesn't remotely resemble the same kind of unique statewide challenges presented at Arkansas with the small-state Razorbacks competing in the mighty SEC.

That said, Broyles, a Georgian, and John Barnhill, the Arkansas athletics director who hired Broyles and whose department blueprint Broyles followed and expanded, came from Tennessee. They are among so many who have proven you don't have to be Arkansas-born to be regarded a true Arkie. Especially if you come as they did to Arkansas with the self-confidence to listen and learn.

Positive things said by some knowing Yurachek in Houston describing him as a smart, good person with common sense and who played a role in hiring Tom Herman for two hugely successful Houston seasons are encouraging. Especially the common sense part.

Long arrived asking no questions and acting like he had all the answers. It did not endear him to Arkansas.

So as much as it behooves Yurachek to hire the right football coach, it equally behooves him listening and learning from Arkansas' past.

Sports on 12/06/2017

Print Headline: New AD must listen and learn

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