Syracuse hires ESPN's John Wildhack to be its next AD

ByAndrea Adelson ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Syracuse has hired ESPN executive John Wildhack as athletic director, the school announced Wednesday.

Wildhack, a 1980 Syracuse graduate, spent 36 years with ESPN -- including the last two as ESPN executive vice president for programming and production. During his career, he produced ESPN's first live regular-season college football game (BYU at Pittsburgh, 1984) and first NFL game (Chicago at Miami, 1987).

He replaces Mark Coyle, who spent less than a year with the Orange before leaving for Minnesota.

"John is an entrepreneurial, outside-the-box leader who brings an unparalleled set of skills and experiences to the director of athletics position," Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement. "As a leader at ESPN, he has demonstrated a keen ability to identify and implement strategies aimed at elevating the entire organization. That record of success, combined with his extensive history of building and inspiring teams, will allow him to immediately and positively impact the lives of our student-athletes. This is a new day in the life of the Department of Athletics. I look forward to watching John, in collaboration with our talented coaches and staff, bring his bold vision for the department to life."

Wildhack called the appointment a "dream job." His last day at ESPN is July 28, and he begins at Syracuse in mid-August.

"Syracuse University played a profound role in my life's trajectory and I'm confident I wouldn't be where I am without the education and opportunities this institution afforded me. To help my alma mater, in particular Syracuse student-athletes, continue to excel and grow, especially in light of the enormous investments being made, and that have been made in its facilities, is a tremendous responsibility and one I don't take lightly. I am honored to have been selected and I look forward to collaborating with the amazing coaches and staff as we work to develop the whole student-athlete -- inside and outside the classroom."

Most recently at ESPN, Wildhack oversaw all production efforts at the network, in addition to programming acquisitions and scheduling. He managed all league and conference relationships and negotiated all live television rights, including the NBA, SEC, College Football Playoff, ACC and many more.

"John has had a stellar 36-year career at ESPN and his contributions are profound and wide-ranging," ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement. "His impact on our production, our unparalleled suite of rights agreements and our overall values and culture is immeasurable. He has served as a key advisor and business partner to me. I have relied often on his thoughtful and selfless judgment.

"He will be sorely missed by me and so many others, but the opportunity to go home to Syracuse, a place he has always loved, is a splendid next chapter in a distinguished career in sports media. Our loss is Syracuse's gain, but the good news is that John will remain a member of our extended business circle."