For John Wildhack, Tuesday was a homecoming

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Related Stories 3 things John Wildhack said at his introductory press conferenceWhat John Wildhack’s hiring could mean for Syracuse: 6 experts weigh inSyracuse coaches react to John Wildhack’s hiring as director of athletics Published on July 12, 2016 at 7:42 pm Contact Chris: cjlibona@syr.edu | @ChrisLibonaticenter_img Three years, John Wildhack told his parents. Three years and he’d be done at ESPN. He loved sports and he loved going down to “The Cage,” a storage area in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, to pick up a camera. His goal then was to turn passion into profession. On Tuesday, with his itinerary on a long wooden desk in his office and a bottle of water at his side, he thought of why he chose ESPN in 1980, then a startup sports network in the undeveloped town of Bristol, Connecticut.“Because they offered me a job,” he said, laughing.Three years turned into 12 times that until he could turn passion into profession again. That passion brought him back to Syracuse on Tuesday. Fans had clamored for an ‘SU guy’ to fill the Director of Athletics role that Mark Coyle had vacated in May.The way Coyle bolted to Minnesota — head football coach Dino Babers said on Tuesday he found out via a reporter — left a bitter taste for Syracuse supporters. Tuesday was about ridding SU of that taste and making clear that the university has an AD that’s at SU for the long haul. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn 1980, Wildhack made the hour and a half trip to Rochester, New York, where ESPN had a team to cover a Professional Bowlers Association event. Ellen Beckwith, who was an executive with the network, interviewed Wildhack in Rochester and recommended him to be hired. It took over 30 years, but Wildhack became one of ESPN’s most tenured employees, seeing the rise of the now-network giant. He saw Bristol rise up as the station’s popularity and success skyrocketed. “When you do that,” he said of seeing the network from infancy to its giant status, “there’s an incredible sense of pride.” The reality of SU’s situation is that it is just a year removed from facing NCAA penalties that will linger for a few more years. While it is by no means a ground-up project, it is in recovery. Last year was the first step to healing, with the athletic program having one of its most successful seasons ever. Just like at ESPN, Wildhack has a chance to put his stamp on SU and build it in his image.At the same time, his challenge at ESPN was always building on already extreme success. The network always managed to stay ahead of its competitors by helping give rise to streaming in sports with ESPN3 or the sports documentary series “30 for 30.” SU’s Olympic sports pose the same dilemma. But realistically, that’s for tomorrow. SU head men’s soccer coach Ian McIntyre said he has yet to meet with Wildhack, who will spend the next few weeks transitioning out of ESPN and in at Syracuse. The first time McIntyre had seen him face to face was Tuesday, before the press conference. Tuesday was more of a pep rally — a homecoming for Wildhack. “It is great to be home,” he said at the beginning of his press conference. For now, that’ll do. Until there are decisions to be made, until he takes over the role in full, until he’s gotten a chance to sit down and actually plan his next few months, right now is just about healing the athletic department after such a sudden departure of the unit’s foremost member. For now, it’s OK to look back at his resume and the potential ways his long tenure at ESPN affects the way he’ll be Syracuse’s AD. It’s OK to extrapolate what he did in his career to what SU needs. It’s even OK to say that, yes, unlike Syracuse former head football coach Doug Marrone, Wildhack has his dream job. For now, it’s even OK to say that the fit “feels so right,” because right now is about the triumph of finding the 11th director of athletics at Syracuse University. Wildhack never did need the bottle of water on his desk, because right now the heat hasn’t quite been turned up. That’ll happen in a couple of weeks. Commentslast_img read more

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