Yurachek's Gonna Need a Bigger Building

Dunne's announcement, Razorbacks' success, Olympic ties create perfect storm
Arkansas gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber assures one of her gymnasts that all will be fine.
Arkansas gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber assures one of her gymnasts that all will be fine. / Arkansas Communications

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It was a line so infamous it evolved into a popular meme years later. Rob Schneider's character was shoveling chum into the ocean when he got his first glimpse at the shark known to the world as Jaws.

He snapped to attention, backed into the captain's quarters and uttered it with astonishment on his face.
"We're gonna need a bigger boat."

It's very likely Arkansas gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber is having a similar experience after ultra-famous LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne made her announcement this afternoon.

It's easy to picture Wieber backing her way into athletics director Hunter Yurachek's office staring down at her phone as he glances up from his work.
"We're gonna need a bigger gym."

It's the kind of perfect storm Barnhill Arena is unlikely to be able to handle. Arkansas gymnastics has steadily grown in popularity the past four years and is hotter than ever after the Razorbacks made it to the national finals last year. Meanwhile, LSU is the reigning national champion, fresh off upsetting super power Oklahoma.

The Tigers were already wildly popular before winning the title. The gymnastics team regularly sold out the Pete Maravich Center last year and the Arkansas-LSU meet outdrew the Arkansas-LSU basketball game by thousands.

Some of that can be attributed to Dunne, who is a pop culture icon with over 10 million followers on social media. If she isn't the highest paid athlete in all of the NCAA, she's close, as her national endorsement deals have escalated even higher during her time with the Tigers.

Current U.S. Olympic team replacement Joscelyn Roberson will make her way to Arkansas this fall fresh off a trip to Paris where the odds of her sliding into the spotlight is higher than usual considering the unnique events of the last Olympics and the number of injuries sustained at the U.S. trials recently. Her presence will already generate a spike in interest, but should she get a chance to show what she can do in Paris, it will jump significantly.

A couple of years ago, current Olympian Suni Lee competed against Arkansas as a member of the Auburn Tigers. It generated such a buzz, the meet had to be moved to Bud Walton Arena where the house far exceeded what Barnhill could have held.

Arkansas may be in for a similar experience this coming year. Dunne will be on her farewell tour as she tries to help the Tigers defend their championship.

That alone will be enough to warrant consideration of moving the meet out of Barnhill, but if Roberson gets her moment in the spotlight in Paris, there is no doubt Wieber will have to do her best Nolan Richardson impression and hold up a crystal bowl to capture the spirit of Barnhill and take it over to Bud Walton.

Meets at Bud Walton are going to have to happen more regularly anyway. The sport is well on its way to becoming the second most popular sport overall in the SEC.

Men's basketball already can't compete with it in a lot of locations across the SEC. Adding national power Oklahoma to the fold just amps that up even more.

The eight spots in the national finals last year included Arkansas, Oklahoma, LSU, Florida and Alabama. That level of dominance isn't going to change anytime soon as future and former Olympians fill up the rosters throughout the SEC.

Every time a Lee, Dunne or Roberson steps foot in an Arkansas gym, it builds another step toward national success for the Razorbacks. As interest continues to grow, so will the success of Wieber's teams.

One day she's gonna need a bigger building on a permanent basis, but, for now, she at least will need one for when LSU comes to town. The schedule doesn't come out for another three months, but the SEC should go ahead and have the foresight to place it on a weekend when John Calipari's basketball team is out of town.

It will be that big of a deal.

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Kent Smith

KENT SMITH

Kent Smith has been in the world of media and film for nearly 30 years. From Nolan Richardson's final seasons, former Razorback quarterback Clint Stoerner trying to throw to anyone and anything in the blazing heat of Cowboys training camp in Wichita Falls, the first high school and college games after 9/11, to Troy Aikman's retirement and Alex Rodriguez's signing of his quarter billion dollar contract, Smith has been there to report on some of the region's biggest moments.