John Wildhack

Syracuse University hires former ESPN exec John Wildhack as new Director of Athletics

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Syracuse University and Kent Syverud have reportedly found someone to replace Mark Coyle, who only served as SU's director of athletics for nine months.

Syracuse has announced John Wildhack, a former ESPN executive, as its new Director of Athletics.

Wildhack graduated from Syracuse in 1980 and joined ESPN later that year, during the station’s first year on air, as a production assistant. In 2014, he became the executive vice president, programming and production, a newly created position at ESPN.

“To say this is a dream job would be a significant understatement,” Wildhack said in a press release. “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.”

In his time at ESPN, Wildhack helped secure live television rights to the NBA and Southeastern Conference, among others, and negotiated several high-profile contracts. While he was at ESPN, Wildhack also produced the station’s first live regular-season college football game (Brigham Young-Pittsburgh, 1984) and ESPN’s first NFL game (Chicago at Miami, 1987).

In a memo to his employees, ESPN president John Skipper said Wildhack’s last day at ESPN, a company he’s worked with for 36 years, will be July 28.

Wildhack was tapped to replace former AD Mark Coyle, who left Syracuse on May 11, just eleven months after being hired to fill the position, to take over at Minnesota. Coyle had filled the position after Daryl Gross announced he was stepping down on March 18, 2015, after NCAA sanctions came down on Syracuse’s basketball and football programs. There were 93 days between Gross stepping down and the announcement of Coyle’s hiring. There were just 57 between Coyle’s departure and today’s announcement.

Daniel French has served as Syracuse’s interim AD after Coyle bolted. Prior to being SU’s interim AD, French was the university’s general counsel since 2014.

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