A salute to John Wildhack

John Wildhack (John Atashian/ESPN Images)
John Wildhack
(John Atashian/ESPN Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN President John Skipper issued the following note to ESPN employees this morning regarding John Wildhack.

John Wildhack, ESPN’s EVP, Programming and Production, has decided to go home to his alma mater to become the next Director of Athletics at Syracuse University. His last day at ESPN will be July 28.

John has had a stellar 36-year career at ESPN and his contributions are profound and wide-ranging. His impact on our production, our unparalleled suite of rights agreements and our overall values and culture is immeasurable. He has served as a key advisor and business partner to me. I have relied often on his thoughtful and selfless judgment.

He will be sorely missed by me and so many others, but the opportunity to go home to Syracuse, a place he has always loved, is a splendid next chapter in a distinguished career in sports media. Our loss is Syracuse’s gain, but the good news is that John will remain a member of our extended business circle.

John joined the company as a production assistant in 1980, and through the years he has held a wide variety of management roles in both Programming and Production. As such, he has had a direct hand in virtually every major content milestone ESPN has achieved, and holds the unique distinction of having produced ESPN’s first live regular-season college football game, Brigham Young versus Pittsburgh (September 1984), and its first NFL game, Chicago at Miami (August 1987).

We will be issuing the below statement from John to the press today, and wanted to share it here.

ESPN is a forward-looking company and it is natural to wonder what’s next in light of today’s announcement. One of the many legacies John leaves ESPN is an incredibly deep team, and we will soon have news regarding next steps. For now, please join me in thanking John for his many truly significant contributions to our company, and in wishing him all the best in his new endeavors. I could not be happier for him and Amy and their family.

Statement from John Wildhack

“For nearly 36 years ESPN has been my professional home. It’s where I’ve grown professionally and personally. It has afforded me opportunities to learn, to experience and to lead.

“The one thing that has been consistent since I stepped foot on campus in 1980 has been the people — the hardest working, highly creative, exceptional people. ESPN has had, and always will have, the best people in the media business. In the early days that meant a ‘can do’ spirit. Today it’s boldly charting our future in an ever-changing media world. People continue to define the culture today, a culture which is unique and a critical component of ESPN’s success.

“I’ve had the good fortune to work for and be in the company of great leaders. I’ve learned so much from John Skipper these last 10 years, and am forever grateful for his support. John’s senior staff is comprised of dedicated, brilliant people; I’ve sincerely enjoyed collaborating with them and I will miss them all. I’ve been truly blessed to work with an exceptional senior staff in production and programming. Nobody acquires, schedules and produces the quality and quantity of content that this group oversees. I am grateful to all the men and women in my organization for their tireless dedication and commitment to excellence.

“I am also grateful to have made many wonderful personal and professional friendships that I will treasure always.

“Making the decision to leave one campus for another was not an easy one. We’ve accomplished much in our 36 years here, and as a result, ESPN is extremely well-positioned for the future. Leading the athletic department at my alma mater is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that presented itself, and it is the only job that could take me away. As I prepare to start a new journey at Syracuse University, I will lean heavily on my experiences at ESPN. I’ll quickly become an ‘ESPN Avid Fan’ (credit Artie Bulgrin). I’ll be watching, listening, and navigating across all ESPN platforms, and will do so with great pride.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to be your colleague. Thank you again for contributing to what has truly been a ride of a lifetime. My sincere best wishes to you all.”

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