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Syracuse AD John Wildhack talks football scheduling, ACC Network with ESPN

Our current leader talks to his former employer.

john wildhack

Anytime the words “Syracuse” and “scheduling” appear within reasonable distance of one another, I’m quick to act. The #disloyalidiot signal goes up over the skyline in Los Angeles, and I’m obligated to write something up.

So was the case this afternoon, was David Hale, of ESPN’s ACC Blog, posted a new story interviewing Syracuse Orange athletic director John Wildhack Friday afternoon. As you’ll recall, ESPN is Wildhack’s former employer, so these things are pretty easy to set up for all parties involved.

Among the major topics Hale and Wildhack discussed were football scheduling, the ACC Network and how SU football’s going in year one of the Dino Babers era. Would highly recommend checking out the full piece over on ESPN, but some of the big points:

Keeping the offense at home

As we noticed in last week’s loss to Wake Forest, Babers’s up-tempo attack doesn’t fare too well in bad weather. While you’ll inevitably be faced with outdoor circumstances every season, it’s in the program’s best interest to minimize them as much as they can. From Wildhack:

“So playing seven home games is a priority for us given the system that Coach [Dino] Babers runs. We want to play in the Dome as often as we can. There's no better environment for his offense than the Dome. We want to leverage that to the greatest extent we possibly can. And for nonconference, there are certain people I'd like us to play that I hope in time we can schedule attractive games for our fan base but also take into account that every conference game we play is a challenging game in the ACC.”

Take a look at that last part for why I, personally, am excited for Wildhack to get started on the scheduling front. He understands what the fan base wants to see more of (teams they recognize) while also seeing the challenges facing Florida State, Louisville and Clemson (among others) presents every year. We should follow that lead...

Wildhack also mentions later that SU will not be scheduling two FCS games in a season, which is also appreciated (I want easier schedules, but not THAT much easier).

Don’t bank on the Orange scheduling ACC teams in non-conference play

Hale brought up the odd “non-conference” series between UNC and Wake Forest set for 2019 and 2021, asked Wildhack about that as an option for SU. His response:

“We're allowed to do that, to play an ACC team that's not on our schedule and have that count as a nonconference game. That's one path. I think the other is, we've got a series scheduled with Maryland, a return game with Connecticut, a series scheduled with Army -- I think there are games, good games out there. Maybe you've got to be a little more creative, work a little bit harder, but I'm confident that we'll be able to build a nonconference schedule that will be competitive and also one that's realistic for us.”

At this point, I’m pretty confident Syracuse will have itself intelligently scheduled through 2019 or so in short order (please!).

ACC Network and the scheduling status quo

Wildhack spoke about the strength of the league right now (five top 25 teams) and how that translates to keeping the “8+1” model versus the proposed 8+2 and 9+1 scheduling models that were supposedly on the table for the ACC. Given his background at ESPN, he obviously knows what’s watchable and what isn’t:

“We can provide great conference inventory, we'll provide deep conference inventory, and I think that'll be very attractive to ESPN and to ACC fans around the country as we prepare to launch the network. And it still gives us the opportunity to play great nonconference games. A good, attractive nonconference game can certainly be as valuable when the ACC is the home team.”

Realistic expectations this year

Like you, Wildhack’s an Orange fan. He’s also a realistic one when it comes to expectations around Babers’s offense and incorporating a brand new scheme. He mentions injuries and youth as reasons there have been some struggles this season. He also lets you know it may be awhile before we’re seeing what this program can truly round into under Babers:

“But as these kids mature and are in the program, and we build depth in recruiting classes, I'm very excited about the future. At the same time, I look at this -- and Dino and I have talked about it so often -- we want to build something that sustains success. It's going to take four years before we really get to fire up all eight cylinders and let's go.”


Definitely read the full piece from Hale for Wildhack’s entire perspective. While we said before the hire that the Orange’s new athletic director didn’t “have to be” a Syracuse guy, it’s certainly refreshing to see a clear-eyed and familiar perspective on the program too.