Orange Watch: Who could succeed John Swofford as ACC commissioner?

Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack
Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack looks to the Syracuse bench. Mandatory Photo Credit: Brad Bierman.

Item: With John Swofford’s recent announcement that he is retiring as ACC Commissioner at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year, we have two predictions about the next ACC commissioner: The individual will come from a current position at an ACC institution (and not the ACC office), and the hire will have a personal and/or professional Southern cultural background.  

Yesterday, we took a look at the first half of each ACC school’s athletic director (in alphabetical order). Here is the second half of the league’s athletic directors, and thoughts on who might succeed John Swofford:

North Carolina State – Like father, like son?  NCSU AD Boo Corrigan is the son of the late longtime Virginia and Notre Dame AD and former ACC Commissioner (1987-1995) Gene Corrigan, and served eight years as Army’s AD and had other ACC stints before arriving in Raleigh.  He’s uniquely qualified.  

Notre Dame – One month after Kevin White went to Duke in the summer of 2008, Notre Dame turned to career lawyer Jack Swarbrick to take his place guiding Irish athletics.  For the prominent alum and longtime Indiana resident, it was a dream come true after missing out on jobs as AD at Indiana, Ohio State, Stanford, and as the Big 12 commissioner.  We see Swarbrick, at age 66, eventually retiring at Notre Dame.  

Pittsburgh – In just over three years, Heather Lyke has made dramatic changes among Pitt’s head coaching ranks with the hiring of eight newcomers, including prying Jeff Capel away from Duke basketball in 2018 for his third stint as a head coach.  Her most sartorial move, spearheading the rebranding of Pitt’s logo marks and official uniform colors to their 1980s mustard yellow and light blue look.  

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Syracuse – Of course ‘Cuse fans are going to label John Wildhack a no-brainer candidate, and he certainly seems like a natural choice with his ESPN pedigree and now entering his fifth year running Orange athletics.  It was huge for Wildhack to make the career move back to his alma mater (with a lot of pulling) after three decades and so much success at ESPN, we simply do not envision him as the next ACC Commissioner.  

Virginia – In a year in which we’ve seen unprecedented attention paid to promoting racial equality around the country, the hiring of a successful female African American athletic administrator such as Georgia native Carla Williams as the ACC Commissioner would be, to use the term attributed to her approach in leading UVA athletics, “forward thinking.”  In under three years of her tenure, the Cavaliers have won national titles in basketball and lacrosse, and football played in the Orange Bowl.  Not too shabby.  

Virginia Tech – When he was hired six and a half years ago, Whit Babcock highlighted his Virginia heritage and understanding of building the culture needed to sustain winning in Blacksburg.  The hiring of Justin Fuente is on course for football, but basketball has been an enigma with just two NCAA appearances since 2007.  

Wake Forest – The least-tenured current ACC AD is John Currie who’s been at Wake since March 2019, but he enjoyed great success at Kansas State (2009-17) winning Big 12 titles in football and basketball.  It’s basketball Currie’s looking to fix with the Demon Deacons, waiting until this past April 25 to relieve Danny Manning of the job after six disappointing seasons, putting the program in the hands of newcomer Steve Forbes. 

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 692 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.