Now in his 23rd year as Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner, John Swofford continues to make a dramatic impact on the ACC and throughout college athletics. As the ACC’s longest-tenured Commissioner, Swofford has been part of the conference for more than five decades as a student-athlete and administrator.
Swofford was a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina who played on its 1971 ACC Football Championship team and was a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll.
Swofford received his Master’s in Athletics Administration from Ohio University. His first job in college athletics came at the University of Virginia — where he worked under future ACC Commissioner Gene Corrigan — before returning to North Carolina. In 1980, at the age of 31, Swofford was named the athletics director at his alma mater. He held that post for 17 years, a period in which North Carolina claimed more ACC and NCAA Championships than during any athletics director’s tenure in ACC history, and claimed the 1994 Sears Directors’ Cup, awarded to the top overall athletics program in the nation. Swofford also hired six head coaches that went on to win national championships — five at North Carolina and football coach Mack Brown at the University of Texas. In 1981, he hired the first African American head coach in the ACC, track and field coach Hubert West.
As Commissioner, Swofford has successfully guided the ACC through turbulent times in college athletics and has led the league’s expansion from nine to 15 schools. Under his leadership, the ACC has remained at the forefront of college athletics, winning 91 national titles during his 22 years as Commissioner.
Under the leadership of Swofford, the ACC has received unprecedented levels of national television exposure. One of most significant initiatives in conference history, the launch of ACC Network on August 22, 2019, is a partnership between ESPN and the ACC. The 20-year collaboration, which began with the inception of ACC Network Extra in the fall of 2016, provides ACC fans exceptional access to live events via a comprehensive, multi-platform network, while extending the conference’s existing rights agreement with ESPN as the conference’s exclusive worldwide rights holder through 2036.
Swofford was instrumental in shaping the College Football Playoff, and as a part of the new format, the ACC and Orange Bowl long-term partnership. He was a leading advocate for NCAA legislation allowing Autonomy 5 conferences to better address the needs of their institutions, athletic programs and student-athletes. He created the ACC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and annual ACC Mental Health and Wellness Summit.
Swofford is a member of four Halls 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. He has been awarded the Corbett Award, which is the highest administrative honor given nationally to a collegiate athletics administrator. Swofford has received the Homer Rice Award from the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association and is a recipient of the Ohio University Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2011, he also received one of Greensboro’s Father of the Year Awards.
Swofford and his wife, Nora, reside in Greensboro, North Carolina. Together, they have three children — Autumn and her husband, Sherman Wooden, who have three children, Maya, Lyla and Lincoln; Chad and his wife, Caitlyn, who have one child, Owen; and Amie and her husband, Mike Caudle, who have two children, Emerson and Colson.
Launch of the ACC Network: 10 Years in the Making
Moderator: John Ourand, Staff Writer, Sports Business Journal