Just as the long awaited Taurean Thompson sweepstakes ended, Syracuse finally got closure on its athletic director after hiring John Wildhack. The 1980 SU graduate is leaving his role at ESPN as the network’s executive vice president of programming and production after 36 years with the company where he negotiated some of the biggest television deals with leagues such as the NBA, MLB, the College Football playoff and much more. The move may come as a shock to some, given Wildhack’s career path, but it makes plenty of sense. Some of the criticism of former AD Mark Coyle’s departure came from his desire to return to his Minnesota roots. Wildhack is a Buffalo native and has strong ties to the school beyond his alumni status. He is a member of the university’s Falk School Advisory Board and was also recently honored at a Newhouse School gala.
Judging by the reaction on social media, many ESPN figures were sad to see their bright minded boss continue his life elsewhere, but were thrilled that he is taking over an athletics program at its peak. The school finished in the top ten in both the men’s and women’s Capital One Cup standings which takes into account the success of all athletic programs. With men’s and women’s basketball at an all-time high and a football program that seems to be turning the corner, SU finds itself at a high point in its athletic prowess.
With all this being said, there is yet another positive that stems from the hire. ESPN’s Andy Katz reported earlier today that Wildhack and Jim Boeheim have a strong relationship which could open up the door for Boeheim to coach beyond 2018. Given the program’s success over the last five years, having Boeheim remain on the sidelines, despite setting a retirement date, would be largely beneficial for SU hoops and delay a transition process.
In the minds of Orange fans, Wildhack checks all the boxes with his homegrown roots and dedication to the school. Plenty more will come out about the new man in charge of SU athletics once he is formally introduced on Tuesday.