by Chris Bahn
Posted 2/13/2013 04:00 pm
Updated 3 months ago
When Chris Wyrick took over as executive director of the Razorback Foundation in September, he never expected his tenure would last only six months.
But as Wyrick explained on Wednesday, he simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work as part of University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart’s executive staff. Wyrick was named Wednesday as vice chancellor for advancement during a press conference on Wednesday at the UA administration building.
"This is an unprecedented move, but I know I’m up for the task," said Wyrick, who will earn $279,000 annually. "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, who has no official start date for the advancement position, came to Arkansas in 2008 after stops at South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He helped oversee the Razorback Seat Value Plan (R.S.V.P.), which resulted in 2,600 new Razorback Foundation members and generated an additional $6.5 million in athletic department revenue.
Though the scope of the vice chancellor’s job is bigger than positions previously held by Wyrick, Gearhart said he was confident in his pick. Wyrick’s background in fundraising and his administrative abilities made were seen as strengths, Gearhart said. The UA has been conducting a search for a new advancement head since last year when an internal audit revealed the division had overspent by more than $3 million in 2012 and was on track for a $4 million deficit this year.
Wyrick joins the UA administration as it prepares to launch a major capital fundraising campaign.
"It is a little different, although I think fundraising is fundraising. Relationship building is what it’s all about. He’s an expert at that," Gearhart said. "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. Anytime 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. I talked to a lot of people. I talked particularly to a lot of our benefactors and I never got a single negative from anyone that I spoke with, so it seemed to make a lot of sense."
Wyrick replaces Brad Choate, who held the position for four years. He was relieved of administrative duties after the deficit was discovered in June 2012. Choate is making $350,000 anually. Wyrick's salary will begin as soon as he officially starts his new job, UA spokesman John Diamond said.
Choate is still employed by the UA and will remain in his current position until June 30, unless he finds a new job before then. Gearhart said he did not know how long Choate planned to remain at the UA and when asked for a timetable said, "you’ll have to ask Brad."
The UA announced last week that Gearhart has asked auditors for the Arkansas General Assembly and the UA System office to review advancement's overspending, which Arkansas Business first reported in December.
Advancement, which houses fundraising, communications, marketing, special events and the World Trade Center in Rogers, includes 154 employees. Wyrick said he was still getting “up to speed” on the organization of the division and the measures being taken to correct the projected deficit.
"From day one it’s going to be about day one," Wyrick said. "It’s going to be about what is going to happen on my watch."
Gearhart, who said Wyrick will remain at the Razorback Foundation for an undetermined period of time, said the UA is fiscally strong and expects to have the advancement issues corrected by the end of the fiscal year through a variety of measures, including cost-cutting and hiring freezes.
"I feel fairly confident that we’ve got our hands around it," Gearhart said. "Keep in mind that [the university] finished last fiscal year with a $30 million surplus, so, it’s important to point out that we can wipe the deficit out immediately. We’re in very good healthy fiscal shape. This is a deficit that was in one unit of the university."