FAYETTEVILLE — The Razorback Foundation is in need of a new executive director.
Chris Wyrick, who became the executive director of the athletic department’s non-profit fundraising arm last fall, has accepted a position as Arkansas’ vice chancellor of university advancement. Chancellor David Gearhart announced Wyrick’s addition to his senior administrative team Wednesday morning.
“Chris has more than 20 years of successful fundraising experience in higher education, including positions at the University of South Carolina, North Carolina State University and Vanderbilt University,” Gearhart said in a news release. “He has been with the University of Arkansas since 2008 and in that time has established himself as a superstar, highly regarded and admired by his colleagues.”
Wyrick, 45, moves into a position previously held by Brad Choate, who was reassigned last year when a review found the office had a $3.1 million shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.
It will be Wyrick’s third position in six months. He was named the Razorback Foundation’s executive director last September, replacing Harold Horton in the role. Wyrick moved to the foundation after working as the senior associate athletic director for development with the athletic department from 2008-2012.
Wyrick oversaw the athletic department’s successful Razorback Seat Value Program for football seating during his tenure. Thanks in part to R.S.V.P., $32 million was raised for athletics for the fiscal year 2010-11 and the Razorback Foundation saw an increase of 2,151 in membership.
Wyrick was with the Razorback Foundation for roughly five months, but in that time implemented a 24-month strategic plan to rebrand the Razorback Foundation.
“When you spend your career with a background in athletics, this is an unprecedented move,” Wyrick said during his introduction. “But I know I’m up for the task. I had just moved to the Razorback Foundation, a job I absolutely love and relish. But when an opportunity like this comes along, I had to jump at it.”
Wyrick said he received athletic director Jeff Long’s blessing before leaving the Razorback Foundation for the new position. Gearhart knows Long probably “hated to lose” Wyrick, but believes it was for the “betterment of the university.”
“It is a little different, although I think fundraising is fundraising,” Gearhart said of hiring someone with an athletic department background. “Relationship building is what it’s all about. He’s an expert at that. I think it requires somebody in this job that has good administrative skills and he’s been proven to have those with the work he did with the Razorback Foundation and the seating plan. He’s a follow-up person.
“Any time I’ve ever needed anything from him, he’s immediately accessible. So, you know, all of that I think came together to cause me to ask him to do this.”
Gearhart said Wyrick’s starting date in his new position has not been determined.
Wyrick will work with the Razorback Foundation board and staff on a transition plan before moving into his new role with the university. Meanwhile, the Razorback Foundation board will select Wyrick’s replacement.
Sean Rochelle, who is the senior associate director of the Razorback Foundation, is likely the top candidate for the role. Rochelle — an Elkins native and former UA-Monticello football player — has been with the Razorback Foundation since 2008 and was considered for the position after Horton retired on July 31.
Ken Mourton, who is the chairman of the Razorback Foundation board, said Wednesday afternoon they “would rather not” have to elect another new executive director after six months but added “we’re not upset.” He said Wyrick moved on to a good opportunity and believes his replacement could be named within a week.
Mourton was asked if it would be Rochelle. He said Rochelle has done an “excellent job” during his time with the foundation and is qualified for the position, but couldn’t definitively say the board would select him as the foundation’s new leader.
“Certainly, Sean will get extreme consideration,” Mourton said. “In no way is this anything against Chris (Wyrick), but Sean has something Chris didn’t have. He’s an Arkansas guy. He played ball here at Elkins. He played at UA-Monticello. And he’s got a couple of advanced degrees from here. Certainly, Sean understands and loves the University of Arkansas and certainly loves Razorback athletics.”