FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas vice-chancellor and director of athletics Hunter Yurachek met with the media Friday evening to provide updates on happenings related to COVID-19.
Yurachek talked about the latest update from the SEC concerning all 14 schools.
“Obviously it has been an incredibly challenging 72 hours for all of us in college athletics and really throughout our country,” Yurachek said. “You may have seen in the last hour the Southeastern Conference has announced collectively that all 14 of its member institutions are suspending all athletic related activities effective at 5 p.m. today through April the 15th. What does that mean? That means absolutely no competition. No team practices. No team workouts. No individual workouts. Anything that has to do with being an athlete has been suspended within the Southeastern Conference. The services we will continue to provide to our student-athletes are academic services, any services they need for injuiries, or any services they need for their mental health.”
Yurachek touched on a variety of topics including spring football which was slated to start Monday. He was asked if it’s still possible to get the 15 practices in this spring considering earliest they could possibly start is middle of April?
“I don’t think it’s reasonable, I will start with the spring football issue, without some kind of waiver or some type of provision in our legislative body that spring football can finish really we have to be done based on our academic calendar by the date April 25,” Yurachek said. “That’s not gonna 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 in 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.”
Sam Pittman is one of the four new head football coaches in the SEC so this was obviously going to be an important period for him and his staff. Yurachek was asked how this could impact Pittman and staff considering they haven’t had any practices?
“I’ll let you know Sept. 5,” Yurachek said to laughter referring to the season opening date with Nevada. “But obviously it’s something Coach Pittman and I have had discussions (about) over the past 24 hours. Again, we’ll apply for some legislative relief to try to get our spring football practices in, whether it be in the month of May or June.
“But I think you will find that the NCAA will provide some relief to most schools to make it equitable. Some have had a week or two of spring practice, some have not, and some are completed with their spring practices. That obviously puts us behind, but that is not what is important right now.”
As far as the spring sports that have seen their seasons halted until April 15 at the earliest. Yurachek was asked if there’s a chance fans have seen the last sports for five or six months?
“I think it will be really tough for student-athletes to be away for a month and come back and really get geared back up,” Yurachek said. “What you have to really start to think about, from a student-athlete perspective, as an administrator, is it best to try to piece together a half of a season with no national championship, or is it best, as we talked about before, to give each student-athlete a year back, and let them come back and have a full, competitive, championship experience?”
He also talked about the coaches bonuses for making the NCAA Tournament such as Mike Neighbors who had the women a lock to get in.
“Specifically, I’ll address Mike Neighbors,” Yurachek said. “I think it was very evident to all of us that our women’s basketball team would receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament, so Coach Neighbors and his staff that was eligible for bonuses, we’ll proceed with those. Then we’ll address the others on a case-by-case basis.”
While football, basketball and baseball have gotten most of the attention, some Arkansas athletes possibly slated for the Olympics are also caught this situation as they don’t get to work with their coaches.
“They do not,” Yurachek said. “Again, right now what’s more important is the health of everyone in our society. It’s not about the athletic pursuits and that may sound harsh and I know that there’s student-athletes, both current and former, that have Olympic dreams, but I think that is a situation that’s fluid and ever-evolving. We had a student-athlete on our cross country team that was set to fly to Australia on Sunday for his Olympic trials with his country, and that’s been canceled. So those are some things that I think are fluid, as well.”
Some have speculated Van Horn or some of the coaches might still work with their teams in case it starts back in April. That isn’t the case Yurachek said.
“I’m not assuming they’re supposed to be working out on their own,” Yurachek said. “I assume that there will be some who do workout on their own, but they will have no access to any athletic facilities other than the Jones Center, which houses our academic and nutrition center, beginning at 5 o’clock today through April 15. As of 5 p.m. Monday, all meetings have to cease as well.”
The NCAA has put out an advisory about seniors in spring sports being able to come such as baseball, softball and others.
“I think it’s something that’s in discussion right now,” Yurachek said. “There’s a lot that goes into that. It’s not just about gaining another year of eligibility for your seniors. You’ve got juniors and sophomores and freshmen that have also lost potentially a season of eligibility. There are 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 roster and scholarship limits for many sports. So it’s just not as simple as saying everyone gets a year back. There’s a lot more discussion about the details, really, before you can say that’s going to happen.”