John Wildhack was named Director of Athletics for his alma mater, Syracuse University, in July 2016.
Previously he worked at ESPN for 36 years, his last role as executive vice president, programming and production, since January 2014, where he oversaw all ESPN production efforts, as well as programming acquisitions, rights holder relationship management and scheduling.
Wildhack holds the distinction of producing ESPN’s first live NFL game, Chicago at Miami (August 1987), and its first live regular-season college football game, Brigham Young vs. Pittsburgh (September 1984).
From 1994 to January 2012, Wildhack held top executive positions in the programming department. In 2007, he served as executive vice president, programming and acquisitions, overseeing all rights negotiations and managing relationships with rights holders for all ESPN entities. These include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN International, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN3, ESPN Mobile Properties, print and more. In 2009, he added responsibility for strategic program planning for all the ESPN television networks, ESPN on ABC and ESPN’s digital platforms.
While leading programming, Wildhack’s efforts were integral in the increase of live and original programming on ESPN and ESPN2, close to 10,000 hours. Under his direction, the evolution of ESPN2’s programming lineup included an extensive commitment to auto racing, college football and basketball, leading to ESPN2 becoming the fastest growing network of the 1990s. Wildhack was also directly involved in the renewal and expansion of many ESPN and ESPN2 programming agreements including NFL, MLB, NBA, the Bowl Championship Series, NCAA, tennis’ four Grand Slam events and a variety of major college conferences.
Wildhack joined ESPN as a production assistant in 1980. He was promoted to associate producer in 1982, to senior associate producer in 1983 and to producer in 1985. Among the sports he worked on were college football, NCAA basketball, boxing, golf and auto racing. He served as coordinating producer of ESPN’s Sunday Night NFL and NFL Draft telecasts in 1988 and 1989 and produced NFL games for the network the first NFL games on cable from 1987-89. From 1990-91 he was director, event productions, and vice president, remote production from 1991-1993. He then was promoted to senior vice president, remote production.
In September 1994, he moved to the programming department as senior vice president, programming, and in 2005 he became senior vice president, programming acquisitions & strategy.
A native of Buffalo, Wildhack received a bachelor of arts degree in telecommunications in 1980 from Syracuse University.