SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse made headlines on Wednesday by hiring ESPN executive John Wildhack as their new Director of Athletics. The news came as a surprise, as Wildhack is an out of the box hire without question. But that does not mean he is a bad one. To the contrary, this hiring is a very, very good one.
It gives the university someone with significant background in negotiating lucrative television contracts, business dealings, project management and many other desired traits. This is the direction that A.D.'s are going. This is progressive thinking, and one that should pay dividends for years to come.
But the immediate question is how does Wildhack's hiring impact two of the most high profile programs at SU. Men's basketball and football. Quentin Hillsman isn't going anywhere, regardless of who the new A.D. was going to be. He has proven to be an elite coach who has turned a perennial doormat into a title contender.
When Mark Coyle left for Minnesota, there some speculation that whoever was hired as the Athletics Director would want to bring in their own guy. Now that the A.D. is in place, there is nothing to worry about from that standpoint. Dino Babers is the head coach of Syracuse football, and Wildhack is not going to change that just to bring in his own guy.
Babers is a widely respected head coach with proven pedigree of turning programs around. He will be given his fair shot to do that at Syracuse, and there is no reason to believe he will not accomplish that goal.
Where Wildhack can help, however, is helping to generate buzz for Babers' program. Helping to give Dino the support he needs in order to put him and his staff in the best position possible.
That means a variety of things. Wildhack's connections to ESPN will only help the Orange get more exposure. More exposure helps recruiting, which helps the roster and theoretically leads to more wins. It all helps. Especially the sooner Dino's high flying offense sets off fireworks on the Carrier Dome turf.
Wildhack has already stated the need to meet with coach Babers and discuss where things stand with the program. What could the ultimate result of this be? It could mean that Dino requests more support staff. More recruiting guys within the department. The NCAA does not currently limit the amount of support staff a program can have in place, so if Dino requires more to further the program, Wildhack can help make that happen.
The University has already shown a commitment to football with the hiring of Babers, Carrier Dome renovations, renovations to the football facilities and the brand new indoor practice facility. The next step is more support that Wildhack can help bring about.
“John doesn’t shy away from taking risks, and he’s always pushing his teams to be the first and the best,” Babers said of the hiring. “I expect John to be a catalyst for much growth and success in the future. I’m eager to welcome someone of his caliber to the Syracuse Athletics team and I am certain we will accomplish great things—both on and off the field.”
Much of the same could have been said about Babers when he was hired. These two should get along just fine. That means only good things for Syracuse football.
This is where things get interesting. Boeheim is a friend of Wildhack. Their relationship spans decades. No question Wildhack thinks highly of Boehiem as basketball coach, a Syracuse man and a pillar in the Central New York community. Who wouldn't want someone like that leading your program for as long as possible?
Well, Boeheim and Syracuse University have already jointly stated that the 2018-19 season will be his last. Will Wildhack's hiring alter that timetable, however?
That remains to be seen. But it certainly is something to consider. Especially given their relationship.
When asked by The Post-Standard's Donna Ditota if the hiring impacts his retirement plans, Boeheim simply laughed and declined to comment on that topic.
He did, however, praise Wildhack as a strong candidate and someone who will do a great job overseeing Syracuse Athletics. His focus right now is on next year's team. On recruiting.
Whether or not Wildhack has any impact on when Jim Boeheim retires remains to be seen. At a minimum, Boeheim has someone he trusts running things. That only helps things continue to run smoothly.
Much of Boeheim's future may depend on the exact language in the contracts in place. Regardless, I wouldn't expect Wildhack to hold his feet to the fire if he wants to continue after 18-19.