Yurachek talks athletics in his first year, plans going forward
What a difference one year can make, and no one knows that more than Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Hunter Yurachek.
After a successful year, Yurachek sat down with The Cougar to reflect on his first year in the position, address questions regarding facilities and joining a Power 5 conference and to discuss what lies ahead for Houston athletics.
Yurachek was promoted to his role on April 28 of last year and took some time to fill us in on what his job entails.
“I oversee 17 sports programs, roughly 425 student-athletes, with an operating budget of 42 million dollars a year,” Yurachek said. “My job description varies greatly from day-to-day, but I’m here in a leadership role to support our student athletes and to support our coaches and administrator. We’ve got a mission of building champions for life.”
Although Yurachek says he receives the most satisfaction day-in and day-out from being around his student-athletes, the success of the football program this year brought him a great amount of satisfaction. Above all, graduating his student athletes makes him most proud.
“Going 13-1, winning the American Athletic Championship, finishing ranked 8th in the country, going to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and winning against a Florida State…that was the highlight and one of the biggest pieces of satisfaction that I got during the course of this year,” Yurachek said. “Here in another month, we’ll have graduation ceremonies, and we’ve got almost 70 student-athletes who are on track to graduating from the University of Houston. I get an even greater deal of satisfaction in that regard.”
Yurachek also said TDECU Stadium has allowed the University to build additional revenue that they did not have with Robertson Stadium. Now, Hofheinz Pavilion is the next big piece to the puzzle.
“It’s not really a place where fans want to come right now,” Yurachek said of Hofheinz. “When we renovate that, it’ll be a significant revenue piece.”
Yurachek listed the long list of recent projects that have been commissioned or completed for the athletic programs, including renovations to the outdoor track, impending construction of a new clubhouse for baseball as well as a resurfacing and a new scoreboard for Darryl and Lori Schroeder Park, but he said they’ve also been working to make sure all aspects of the athletes’ lives are up to par with what they should be.
“We’ve done almost a million dollars of just routine maintenance to the Athletics and Alumni Center with new carpet, new paint and new graphics,” Yurachek said. “We opened up the Cougar Café, which is a nutrition center for our student athletes. We did a $350,000 renovation to our strength and conditioning center, we put another $250,000 into renovating our academic center.”
With success comes the risk of losing coaches who have helped teams get to that level, but Yurachek said he welcomes the challenge if it means good for the program.
“As an athletic director you’re concerned anytime there is a potential to lose a coach who has been successful,” Yurachek said. “I’d rather be faced with losing a coach that has been successful than faced with losing a coach that has been unsuccessful. I’ll take that burden, and if you can go 13-1 and go to the Peach Bowl again, people are going to speculate that Coach Herman’s going to get other offers, which he will. But, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Along with the success of many of the UH programs, the sentiment for an upward move into a Power 5 conference has been growing, but Yurachek said he’s more concerned with where they are now.
“If I said I was not interested in that, I’d be lying,” Yurachek said. “I think all of the athletic directors in the American Athletic Conference would be lying if they said they didn’t have that interest, but our main concern right now, and I always say this, is being the best in the American Athletic Conference. The AAC is a great athletic conference (and) we cannot be worried about being a member of the Big 12 or another Power 5 Conference until we dominate the conference we are in.”26