Entering his first full year as vice chancellor and director of athletics at the University of Arkansas, Hunter Yurachek has made the most of his time since Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz announced him as vice chancellor and director of athletics on Dec. 4, 2017.
Shortly after his arrival in Fayetteville, Yurachek introduced a program wide strategic plan that focused on fostering student-athlete success and centered on achieving the program’s mission of building Razorbacks/Champions for Life. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Razorback student-athletes, coaches, administrators, Razorback Foundation members and fans, results are already being realized on and off the field.
In the 2018 spring semester, Razorback student-athletes earned a record-tying 3.25 GPA and 282 student-athletes secured a spot on the department honor roll. In addition, nearly 125 Razorback student-athletes added their name to Senior Walk as graduates of the University of Arkansas.
Arkansas tied a program record with a No. 16 finish in the 2017-18 Learfield Sports Directors Cup, a program that ranks the nation’s most successful intercollegiate athletics programs. Arkansas finished first in the nation in the rankings among schools with 19 or fewer sports.
In 2017-18, Arkansas captured four SEC championships (men’s and women’s cross country, women’s indoor track, women’s golf), including the school’s first SEC crown in women’s golf. The Razorbacks earned three top-five national finishes including national championship runner-up finishes at he 2018 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships and the 2018 College World Series. Four Arkansas student-athletes earned individual national championships in 2017-18.
Since taking his leadership role within Razorback Athletics, Yurachek has traveled the state for a series of meet and greets to hear from Arkansans on what the Razorback program means to them. It is all part of building a solid foundation for fulfilling the program’ vision – To Be the Best.
Yurachek came to Arkansas from the University of Houston where he served as the vice president for athletics. Prior to Houston, Yurachek served as Director of Athletics at Coastal Carolina University, where Coastal won 29 Big South Conference championships. Yurachek was named Under Armor FCS Athletic Director of the Year in 2014. He has also worked at the University of Akron, the University of Virginia, Western Carolina University, Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University.
In Yurachek’s first two years at Houston, the Cougars’ sport programs eclipsed 225 points in the Learfield Directors’ Cup in back-to-back years for the first time in department history, securing top-three finishes in The American Athletic Conference both years. The Cougars improved to second in 2016-17 after finishing third in 2015-16.
The feat was bolstered in 2016-17 by 11 of 17 programs qualifying for NCAA postseason competition. Houston’s programs combined for a league-leading five American Conference team championships and 22 American Conference individual titles.
The postseason had a Houston flair as the men’s 4×100-meter relay of John Lewis III, Mario Burke, Jacarias Martin and Cameron Burrell claimed an NCAA National Championship, while Burrell claimed silver at both the NCAA Indoor (60-meter dash) and Outdoor (100-meter dash) Championships. At home, the Houston Baseball program was selected to host an NCAA Regional for the fourth time in program history and the second time in the last three years.
The success was not limited to the field of play, however, as UH student-athletes opened the fall semester with a record 96 student-athletes on the Dean’s List. That record was short lived as 109 student-athletes earned Dean’s List honors in the spring semester. Houston student-athletes combined for the highest spring GPA (2.95), highest cumulative GPA following a spring semester (2.93) and the highest average hours passed in a spring semester (14.1) in department history.
Twelve of 17 sport programs recorded a GPA of 3.0 or higher, while 75 student-athletes completed their graduation requirements. Three programs, Men’s Cross Country, Women’s Cross Country and Women’s Golf each earned the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award ranking among the top 10 percent in the nation in academic progress rate scores.
The 2016-17 year also saw the continuation of an aggressive facilities plan as construction began on the $60 million renovation of the Fertitta Center, the football indoor practice facility and a baseball player development center and clubhouse with more than $85 million of projects all privately funded.
In his first year in the role, Houston recorded its highest finish in the Learfield Directors’ Cup since 1999-2000 and its second-highest finish in school history with 296.5 points to finish 73rd nationally.
The 2015-16 academic year saw the Houston Football program capture The American Athletic Conference Championship and a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win over Florida State, the Houston Men’s Track & Field program win The American Indoor and Outdoor Championships and the Houston Women’s Golf program claim an American Championship in only its second year with a full team. In addition, the Men’s Basketball program returned to the NCAA postseason for the 29th time in program history and the Men’s Golf program advanced to the NCAA Championships for the third straight year.
All of the athletic achievements occurred while UH student-athletes recorded the second-best fall GPA, 2.91, and second-best spring GPA, 2.87, in athletic department history while placing a record 88 student-athletes on the University’s Dean’s Honor List in the spring.
Yurachek led the Houston Athletics fundraising charge with a record amount $5.2 million in private donations to the Athletics general scholarship fund in the 2014- 15 fiscal year. Focused on improving the student-athlete experience, Yurachek has also led a department that unveiled the completed Guy V. Lewis Development Center for the Houston Men’s and Women’s Basketball programs, Carolyn and Ron Yokubaitis Field at Carl Lewis International Track & Field Complex, one of the nation’s largest collegiate baseball video boards, a renovated Houston Football locker room and a short game facility for the Houston Men’s and Women’s Golf programs.
Named by Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator as Chair for a campus-wide steering committee established to oversee the grand opening events for the $128 million TDECU Stadium, Yurachek assisted in the cultivation, solicitation and securing of a 10-year, $15 million-naming rights agreement for TDECU Stadium with the per year value ranking in the top ten nationally for collegiate venue naming rights agreements.
Yurachek was instrumental in the national search and hiring of football and men and women’s basketball head coaches (Tom Herman, Kelvin Sampson, Ronald Hughey) while overseeing the development and implementation of a $500,000 remodeling project to the men and women’s basketball locker rooms.
He served as liaison with an architectural design firm on the plans for the $25-million Guy V. Lewis Development Center as well as overseeing the development and implementation of a $500,000 facility enhancement to the Athletics/Alumni Center, including the addition of Cougar Cafe, a student-athlete nutrition center.
Yurachek came to Houston after serving four years as Director of Athletics at Coastal Carolina University where he oversaw a department featuring 18 men’s and women’s NCAA Division I sport programs. A testament of his vision, Yurachek was named the 2014 Under Armour FCS Athletic Director of the Year in May of 2014.
Under Yurachek’s leadership, the Chanticleers won a total of 29 Big South Championships (both regular season and tournament championships), made 30 NCAA appearances and finished a program-best 79th in the 2012-13 Learfield Director’s Cup.
During Yurachek’s time of leadership, Coastal hosted an NCAA Baseball Regional; NCAA Baseball Super Regional; NCAA Division I Football championship contests in 2010 and ‘13; and NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship matches in 2011, ‘12 and ‘13, as well as winning a competitive bid to host the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Men’s and Women’s Big South Basketball Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015, sponsored by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Coastal Carolina student-athletes posted a 3.028 grade point average (GPA) for the fall 2013 semester and saw its overall GPA rise from 3.053 to 3.108. Of the 434 student-athletes, 253 – or 58.3 percent – posted a GPA between 4.0 and 3.0, including 28 who earned President’s List (4.0 GPA for the semester) and an additional 117 who earned Dean’s List recognition. Further breakdown shows that 125 of the 175 women student-athletes (71.4 percent) posted a GPA between 4.0 and 3.0, while 128 of the 259 men (49.4 percent) accomplished the feat.
In addition, during Yurachek’s tenure Coastal Carolina student-athletes earned:
- 363 All-Big South honors
- 31 All-Big South Player of the Year honors along with 13 Big South Freshman of the Year honors
- 28 All-America honors
- 11 Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in their respective sports
- 5 Academic All-America honors
- 4 national postgraduate scholarships
- 3 Big South Conference Christenberry Awards for Academic Excellence
With all the success, the Coastal Carolina department operated within a balanced budget during Yurachek’s tenure, thanks to his zero-budget initiative and the unprecedented revenues generated since his arrival with his restructuring of the external relations department. In his first year, the department revenue was at $560,000, including $316,000 in ticket sales and sponsorships at $250,000. After the 2012-13 year, revenue came in at $1.4 million, thanks to $549,000 in ticket sales and $600,000 in sponsorships.
Since 2010, the Department of Athletics added women’s lacrosse; launched Champions for Life, a life skills enhancement program for student-athletes; signed a five-year $1.1 million contract with an athletic apparel provider; established the Letterwinners Association; successfully completed NCAA Cycle 3 Recertification; and has been featured on the front page of the sports section of USA Today with the headline reading “Coastal Carolina Piles up Sports Success.”
Also during Yurachek’s tenure, several major projects that supported intercollegiate athletics totaling more than $250 million were included in the University’s in ongoing capital improvements across the campus.
The HTC Center opened in 2012 and is the home for Coastal Carolina’s men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball programs – as well as the three-year home to the Big South Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships. In addition, Adkins Field House, the Boni Belle Baseball/Softball Hitting & Practice Facility, the Will Garland Academic Enhancement Center and the Richard M. Ward MD Sports Performance Center were completed and dedicated while the $10.2 million Baseball/Softball complex will be completed in 2014. Yurachek also secured a 12-court tennis facility and a student-athlete training table facility.
Prior to his appointment at Coastal Carolina University, Yurachek was executive senior associate athletics director at the University of Akron. He led and managed the Zips’ external relations unit, which included marketing and promotions, media relations, ticket operations, development (Z-Fund), video operations and merchandising. In addition, he was the sport administrator for men’s basketball, men’s golf and women’s golf and worked closely with the football program.
Yurachek has also held various athletics administration leadership positions at the University of Virginia, Western Carolina University, Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management at Guilford College in 1990, where he was a four-year letter winner in basketball. He earned his master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Richmond in 1994.
Born in Richmond, Va., and raised in Charlotte, N.C., Yurachek and his wife Jennifer have three sons; Ryan, Jake and Brooks. Ryan is a former football student-athlete at Marshall University. Jake is a freshman football student-athlete at the University of Colorado.