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Swofford to retire as ACC commissioner

ACC Commissioner John Swofford, who intends to retire following the 2020-21 academic year. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

John Swofford, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner and one of the giants of US college sports, said he will be retiring after the 2020-21 athletic year.

Swofford, 71, has been in the post since 1997, and during that time he solidified the conference as one of college sports’ Power Five conferences amid a period of marked industry change and tumult, and led a conference expansion that ultimately went from nine to 15 member schools spanning the entire US eastern seaboard.

He also played a critical role in the development of the College Football Playoff, and ACC teams during his tenure won 92 national team titles in 19 different sports, including seven in men’s basketball and four in football. A former football player and later the athletic director at the University of North Carolina, Swofford’s ACC ties span more than 50 years.

“It has been a privilege to be part of the ACC for over five decades and my respect and appreciation for those associated with the league throughout its history is immeasurable,” Swofford said. “There are immediate challenges that face not only college athletics, but our entire country, and I will continue to do my very best to help guide the conference in these unprecedented times through the remainder of my tenure.”

Swofford, widely known across the industry for quiet leadership and deep preparation, will aid in the search for his successor and the subsequent transition, though the specifics around that effort have not been finalized.

“The conference has been dramatically enhanced in every way during the last quarter century, especially in its balance of academics and athletics,” said Kent Syverud, Syracuse University chancellor and chair of the ACC’s board of directors. “All 15 presidents of the conference, like their universities are deeply grateful to John for his transformative leadership.”

One of Swofford’s more recent major accomplishments was the development of the ACC Network as part of a long-term rights deal with ESPN extending to 2036. That television network debuted nearly a year ago, helping the conference narrow the financial gap between the ACC and other Power Five conferences.