Here’s one most everybody absolutely didn’t see coming.
Wednesday, Syracuse announced via a press release that it has hired John Wildhack as the university’s new athletic director. Wildhack replaces Mark Coyle, who left in May of this year after less than 12 months on the job for the same position at Minnesota.
Wildhack has never been a collegiate athletics administrator, instead spending the last 36-plus years in various positions at ESPN. Wildhack’s most recent title at the WWL was executive vice president for programming and production, where he reported directly to ESPN president John Skipper and with the university’s press release describing his role as overseeing “all [of] ESPN’s production efforts, as well as programming acquisitions, rights holder relationship management and scheduling.” Before that?
Previously, Wildhack served as executive vice president for production from 2012 to 2014, during which time he was responsible for all ESPN and ABC game, event and studio production work for domestic and international television and radio networks. Prior to that, he was ESPN’s executive vice president for programming and acquisitions from 2007 until 2012. During that time, he oversaw all rights negotiations and managed relationships with rights holders for all ESPN entities. These include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN International, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN3, ESPN Mobile Properties, print and more. In 2009, he began leading strategic program planning for all the ESPN television networks, ESPN on ABC and ESPN’s digital platforms.
While he, again, has no collegiate administrative experience, what he does have going for him — and what was perceived as a weakness of one his predecessors — is that he is a 1980 SU graduate and maintains deep ties to Central New York.
“John is an entrepreneurial, outside-the-box leader who brings an unparalleled set of skills and experiences to the director of athletics position,” SU 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.”
“To say this is a dream job would be a significant understatement,” Wildhack said. “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.”
Wildhack will officially begin his new job in mid-August.