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Syracuse University Names John Wildhack New Athletics Director

Syracuse University

Syracuse University found its next Athletic Director by looking at alumni and into sports media. John Wildhack will leave ESPN as its Executive Vice President of Programming and Production to take the position. Rick Burton, Sport Management Professor at SU’s Falk College, was on the search committee. He says the move helps with the marketing and promoting the university and its athletics.

“Look at the future landscape of college sports; I think John’s background certainly with ESPN and with media both in traditional forms and social and digital. He’s gonna be a phenomenal hire for us going forward.”

Burton says Wildhack has been involved with every part of ESPN's business including negotiations with the biggest college conferences. He says Wildhack certainly has an extensive background with the NCAA, even though he hasn’t worked in an Athletic director role. Burton also expects Wildhack to support a larger vision for the university’s sports teams within a strong higher education institution.

A Central New York native and an SU alum, John Wildhack will leave his role as ESPN executive vice president for programming and production after 36 years with the network.
Credit Syracuse University
A Central New York native and an SU alum, John Wildhack will leave his role as ESPN Executive Vice President for Programming and Production after 36 years with the network.

  “The Chancellor’s vision for Syracuse as a university is to look and act and play like Stanford or Notre Dame, some of the great academic institutions that are private universities. John really gets that, and I think his commitment to academic is gonna be superb.”

Acting Athletic Director Dan French says he’s known Wildhack for a long time and is confident that Wildhack has all the skillsets to take his role. The hire was made necessary when former Athletic Director Mark Coyle decided to leave Syracuse after less than a year to take the same position at the University of Minnesota. French dispels thoughts that Syracuse is a second-tier job that might have trouble keeping a top candidate.

“I don’t buy into that narrative that this is a stepping-stone job. I mean we are in one of the best conferences in America playing some of the best teams in America. With the best facilities in America, facilities are gonna continue to improve. So I just don’t buy the narrative that this is a stepping-stone job.”

Wildhack is expected to be on campus and meet the public on July 12. He will begin his new position in mid-August.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.