Yurachek’s multi-million-dollar dilemma with Razorback football nosedive

Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek leans against a door frame during Chad Morris' press conference after a 48-7 loss to Alabama on on October 26. PHOTO BY CRAVEN WHITLOW | HITTHATLINE.COM
PHOTO BY VARNELL MEDIA

Did you see that photo of Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek circulating on social media?

Yurachek, clad in a Hogs sport jacket, looked “wrecked” as my 10-year-old son, J.D., would say. The second-year athletics director was seated with a shell-shocked look on his face.

He had just endured Arkansas’s blowout homecoming football loss to fellow SEC West bottom dweller Mississippi State. The Bulldogs punched the Razorbacks in the mouth and made them like it.

It’s a recurring theme and Razorbacks coach Chad Morris stands at the podium with glazed eyes and dodges as many questions as he can.

I don’t blame Yurachek for looking physically and mentally exhausted while enduring this dumpster fire of a football season. The bad news is it will only get worse, as he makes some unenviable decisions in the next month.

But, let’s settle something first. I listened to Bo Mattingly’s Hog Pod podcast where he interviewed former interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples.

Peoples gave her account of the coaching search that ultimately led to the hiring of Morris two years ago. That search was being conducted simultaneously with an athletic director search that eventually yielded Yurachek.

The debate has been whether hiring Morris fell on the shoulders of Comer Peoples, who is now the athletics director at Ohio, and Arkansas chancellor Joseph Steinmetz or Yurachek.

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The way JCP explains it, Yuracheck’s deal was finalized slightly before Morris’, and after being informed that Morris was about to be hired, Yurachek went along with the impending deal.

So, based on her account (I really recommend you listening for yourself. It’s well-done and insightful), I’d say that this is definitely not Yurachek’s hire. At that point, 99 percent of all AD candidates would carry on with the decision. Time was of the essence, and Yurachek couldn’t realistically add to the process. It appears he was happy with the decision. However, approval doesn’t make it his.

So having said all of that, Yurachek does have to make the decision on whether to retain Morris. The Arkansas media has covered all of the reasons on the field that make the case for Morris’ dismissal and it’s a solid one.

The recurring theme is, Morris is in over his head and nothing he’s done over the past two years gives reason to believe he can turn Arkansas into a winner. I whole-heartedly agree. So, there is definitely cause. Yurachek knows it, too.

However, we all know this decision isn’t as easy as firing Morris. If you fire him, you’ve got to have a candidate in mind, or the situation could really spiral out of control, and the program could end up with a worse coach than Morris (Yes, I said worse coach than Morris).

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Does Yurachek have a short list?

I would bet on it. Most ADs do just in case. He’s got to make sure he can land the coach he wants who can turn the program around and find a way to pay Morris’ buyout.

It will be a much tougher process, I contend, to land a good coach to come to Fayetteville than finding a way to way to pay him off, but if they want Morris gone, they will find a way.

What I am very curious to know is what Dallas Cowboys owner and Arkansas booster Jerry Jones thinks of all of this. Jerry Jones, a former Arkansas player, was a Morris proponent with his grandson John Stephen Jones playing with Morris’ son, Chandler, at Highland Park High School in Dallas.

John Stephen Jones, a redshirt freshman quarterback, signed with Arkansas after Morris became coach and will make his first career start Saturday.

So, is Jerry Jones happy with Morris? Will his approval and clout at Arkansas save Morris? Or is he unhappy with Morris and willing to write the check to have him dismissed?

Based on what has happened with embattled Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, it looks like Jerry Jones will back Morris. Still, that may not be enough … especially if Arkansas loses to mid-major Western Kentucky Saturday.

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It seems like a loss to WKU and former Hogs quarterback Ty Storey would be the beginning of the end for the Morris Era. Yurachek could opt to bring back Morris and instruct him to fire members of his staff.

The pluses of another season of Morris are a smaller buyout next season and a message to perspective coaches that they will be given an ample chance to turn things around. That move may also keep some of Morris’ talented players.

If he is fired now, some of them will hit the transfer portal and the new coach will be behind.

There’s a lot to consider with so many wild cards. It really is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario.

It’s also apparent that no matter what Yurachek decides some will be unhappy although it appears more and more that most will be fine with a Morris firing. The division may be on who is hired.

Yurachek is in a tough spot that he wouldn’t have expected to be in when he took the job two years ago. It will be interesting to see which direction he chooses. He really has the fate of the football program in his hands.

No wonder he looks frazzled.

7 COMMENTS

  1. First, there is the incorrect use of the term of art “cause.” Unfortunately, failure to field a winning team is not “ cause” for dismissal, and using the term can mislead readers who might believe that Morris could be dismissed and his buyout mitigated since there is “cause.” In contractual terms, his dismissal would be without cause.

    Yurachek is indeed in a tough spot, and his best course of action would be to call in Morris, insist on staffing changes—especially the dismissal of Chavis and Craddock— and give him one more year, with the distinct understanding that there must be significant improvement, Less than that creates more problems than it solves.

    • I agree. I am not against Morris getting one more year to prove himself, if a) He can show Yurachek that he has an actual plan for building a program and b) He makes a significant coaching change somewhere. (My money would be on the DC.)

  2. You sound sincere in going easy on the AD now, but you are a proven flip-flopper. No matter what action is taken, you’ll be watching public opinion and will write to attract and retain readers. After all, it’s today’s accepted journalistic approach.

    • I suppose you could do better….I think Nate has hit the nail on the head here. It is what it is & all Razorback fans want Chad to be a winner. So far he is not. The AD (like any other Manager or Business Owner) has to make tough decisions based on performance and future growth implications. Find something else to complain about.

  3. Personally Not been a fan of this coach or AD our program been a mess sent Houston Nutt Got fired and then got a grandpa coach till next one then Bobby came in he did good But he couldn’t keep his pants up and she want money She couldn’t keep her cloths on then Bobby lair to the AD Then Bobby Got fired and No pay Then you fans Got couch from Big 10 He came in mess from Ex coach from Bobby then got couch from smu who never been head college coach But been High school football coach and Head coach college as offense and won But Only 1 year at smu then jump to the Razorback head coach in SEC only won 4 games 2 years Have Not Won Any SEC Games. Yes to money to buy him out $$$$$$$$ . Give him 1-2 more years Let him try get his players he would want. Also on touchdown club when EX Coach Bobby Came He Said He Was Sorry Then The Claps Like Nothing Happened, I Guess It Okay To To Boss ( Who Was AD at Time )
    About His Motorcycle Accident That He Was Having Sex With Other Coach On The Saff She Was Engaged, This Why Our Football Program In The Mess.

  4. I say we get a coach that has a proven record wherever he goes and someone who has a vested interest in Arkansas. Why not pick a high school coach who would be hungry to prove he can coach at a college level. My nomination would be Buck James current Bryant head coach, former Camden Fairview Head coach and Former Star City Head coach. Check out his record at all the schools he coached. This guy is a beast when it comes to discipline. You will have no choice but to get better under him. He will take a average player and develop them to perform at the top of their game, not to mention he has the ability to pull in the most talented players in the state.

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