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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Yurachek made the right hire at the right time

by Wally Hall | September 28, 2021 at 2:11 a.m.

Less than an hour into his first meeting with Sam Pittman, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek got it.

He knew why so many former players had called or written in support of Pittman being the next head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

He knew why Judy Henry, an attorney and agent for Pittman, had asked just for a single interview.

With associate athletic director Jon Fagg and former Razorback great Steve Cox -- along with Yuracheck, the three-man search committee -- watching Yurachek and Pittman got serious.

One thing that was never mentioned was salary.

Pittman didn't ask because it wasn't about money, it was about a love he and his wife Jamie had for Arkansas, not just as a program but as a state.

For two years, Pittman worked as the highest paid assistant coach on Bret Bielema's staff at Arkansas, even though Nick Saban and Alabama had called.

In that time, the Pittmans knew they had found where they were going to spend their retirement and bought a place on Lake Hamilton for the golden years.

The deal was struck that day and Yurachek felt, in time, Pittman would turn around a program that had lost its pride, desire and dedication in the previous five years.

Yurachek went outside the box when he needed to.

He had talked to head coaches, but what he wanted more than a resume was someone who knew what they were doing and would resonate with the people of Arkansas.

That was Pittman, just like it was Eric Musselman, the men's basketball coach.

Yurachek is comfortable outside the box. He's a blue collar worker with a white collar job.

When Pittman told him that day he was going to hire a coordinator with head coaching experience, Arkansas' athletic director knew he had the right man. One with little ego.

On Monday, Yurachek came to The Rock to speak to the Little Rock Touchdown Club and there were a few firsts.

Yurachek walked from his radio interview with Justin Acri and Wess Moore on The Buzz straight into the ballroom and immediately a Hog Call reverberated through the DoubleTree Hotel -- the first before a meeting even began.

It was the first time that Yurachek had spoken to the club after a win. His first two visits were after embarrassing losses to North Texas and San Jose State.

By the way, Yurachek fixed that problem by firing Chad Morris.

It was the first time the Touchdown Club had met with the Razorbacks at 4-0 since David Bazzel founded the club in 2004.

Yurachek was funny and absolutely nothing like his predecessor, who always managed to bring up the need for more donations when he spoke to the club.

Yurachek, 52, paid his dues as an assistant before earning the big chair 12 years ago.

He and his family have moved eight times before settling into his first Power 5 job at Arkansas.

He doesn't talk about it, but he was comfortable as the athletic director at the University of Houston. But when he saw the University of Arkansas, he saw a challenge -- a proud school with problems that needed attention.

The breadwinners football and basketball were not doing well. Football was upside down and basketball was mediocre.

Now the basketball coach he hired is fresh off an Elite Eight appearance in last March's NCAA Tournament and the football team is ranked No. 8 in the nation by The Associated Press.

There's still the huge debt service for the $160 million north end zone expansion, but he's chipping away at that.

On Monday, Yurachek was fun and informative during a time when Arkansas football has risen from the ashes because he recognized the right man at the right time.

Print Headline: Yurachek made the right hire at the right time

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