ESPN Exec John Wildhack Leaving for Syracuse University Post

John Wildhack ESPN P 2016
John Atashian/ESPN Images

The 36-year veteran of the cable sports net has been named the athletic director of his alma mater.

John Wildhack is leaving ESPN. The longtime veteran of the cable sports network, currently serving as executive programming and production, is departing TV altogether for a position at his alma mater.

Starting in August, Wildhack will be the new athletic director of Syracuse University. The change in direction finds Wildhack replacing Mark Coyle, who had a brief tenure in the position before departing for Minnesota.

"John has had a stellar 36-year career at ESPN and his contributions are profound and wide-ranging," said ESPN president John Skipper in a statement Wednesday. "His impact on our production, our unparalleled suite of rights agreements and our overall values and culture is immeasurable. He has served as a key advisor and business partner to me. I have relied often on his thoughtful and selfless judgment. He will be sorely missed by me and so many others, but the opportunity to go home to Syracuse, a place he has always loved, is a splendid next chapter in a distinguished career in sports media. Our loss is Syracuse's gain, but the good news is that John will remain a member of our extended business circle."

Wildhack went to ESPN immediately after graduating Syracuse in 1980. His time at the dominant cable network has seen him produce the network's first live regular-season football and NFL game.

"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," Wildhack said in a statement. "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."

Though there is the comfort of him not moving to a competitor, the loss of Wildhack comes on the heels of a number of on-camera departures for ESPN. The cable network has parted ways with Skip Bayless and Curt Schilling — among others.  

"We are very happy with the people who work for us," Skipper told reporters after ESPN's May upfront. "We're highlighting new voices, diverse voices, and changing the way we look to reflect the way the fan looks now. We're quite happy with our talent."

Wildhack's last day at ESPN is scheduled for July 28, with a Syracuse start date some time in August.