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SU's New Athletic Director says New Job is Homecoming, Plans to Build on Successes

Christian Unkenholz

  Syracuse University gave its new Athletic Director John Wildhack a big “welcome home” celebration today. Wildhack, an alumni of Syracuse University, says the decision to take the job was driven by a love for the University.

“It’s a big passion play. There is no question. The love that I have for this University is significant. The chance to come home, the chance to work with young people, and help young people develop, develop academically, develop athletically, and to work with a talented group of coaches, that excites me.”

Wildhack was chosen for the position last week but was formally introduced today. He comes to the Athletic Director position with little experience running a college athletics program. He formerly worked as ESPN’s Executive Vice President for Programming and Production. Wildhack hopes the enthusiasm he has for his alma mater and experience dealing with various athletic conferences will help him get the job done.  

“The passion I have for this University, all facets of this University, I have had tremendous experience and very awarding experience dealing with various conferences, dealing with the NCAA, etc. I think most important is the passion that I bring. I will challenge my staff. Again, we are in a great place. How do you get better?”

Wildhack already has a starting point in mind. Following National Championships in men’s Cross Country, and Field Hockey, and Final Four appearances in both men’s and women’s basketball last season, Wildhack wants the Athletic Program to represent the University well under the national spotlight.

“We will be defined by integrity, passion for Syracuse, and cooperation. We want this program to be a point of pride.”

Wildhack, a media executive for decades, reflects on the value of SU's brand around the country.

Wildhack takes the position after the quick departure of former Athletic Director Mark Coyle after only a year on the job. With a new football coach starting this year and SU Basketball’s Jim Boeheim set to retire following the 2018 season, Wildhack assured SU fans that he is here for the long run.

“Being a native of Upstate New York, being an undergraduate here, being a proud alumnus of Syracuse, keeping a connection after graduation through the Newhouse School, through the Falk School, Central New York is incredibly important to me and to our family. Secondly, as I look at my family, if I come to them any time soon and say, ‘What about a move?’ they will all disown me.”

Wildhack’s son, siblings, nephew, and sister-in-law all attended or are currently enrolled in Syracuse University. He says his first priority will be getting to know his staff and developing a personal connection and culture for the program.

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.