Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford announced today that he will retire next year. The 2020-21 athletic year will be the last of Swofford’s 24 years of service running the ACC. The new was initially broken by veteran reporter David Teel; however, the ACC sent out an official release shortly thereafter.
Swofford, the longest-tenured commissioner in ACC history, has been the league’s top leader since 1997. Prior to that, he was the athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1980-97), his alma mater.
Sources: #ACC commissioner John Swofford is retiring next year. Announcement expected as early as today.
— David Teel (@ByDavidTeel) June 25, 2020
A native of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, where he played quarterback at Wilkes Central High, Swofford was recruited by Bill Dooley to UNC to play football. After receiving his Master’s in Athletic Administration at Ohio University, Swofford landed a job at the University of Virginia, working for future ACC Commissioner Gene Corrigan.
While at North Carolina, the Tar Heels won more ACC and NCAA Championships under Swofford than any other athletics director’s tenure in the ACC. North Carolina also won the 1994 Sears Directors’ Cup — given to the top overall athletics program in the nation.
During his time as ACC Commissioner, Swofford helped guide the league through a variety of changes. In that time, the conference navigated college athletics expansion; growing from nine to 15 schools. First, Virginia Tech and Miami arrived in 2004; Boston College followed a year later. The following decade, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame joined, too.
Over this 23-year span, the ACC has found unprecedented team success as well. Going back to 1997, ACC teams have won a combined 92 national team titles in 19 of the league’s 27 sponsored sports.
Television rights are the name of the game in college athletics. Back in April 2013, the ACC approved a grant of media rights deal through the 2026-27 athletics year. This bit of new, which was first report by David Glenn, solidified the conference’s base; Maryland would be the only university to leave.
That initiative laid the groundwork for a 20-year extension in 2016 between ESPN and the ACC, through the 2035-36 athletics year. At the same time, the league also extended its media right deal through 2035-36, too. This was also the kickstarter for the ACC Network, which launched on August 22, 2019. In its infancy, the ACC Network has already proven to be a financial boon for the conference.
For his accomplishments, Swofford has been named to five Halls of Fame: the NACDA Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, the Chick-fil-A Bowl Hall of Fame, and the Wilkes County Hall of Fame.