Swofford to retire as ACC’s commissioner in 2021

The ACC announced that longtime commissioner John Swofford would retire at the end of the 2020-21 athletic year.

Swofford has been the ACC’s commissioner for 23 years. He will remain commissioner until a successor is installed and will assist with the transition, the ACC announced.

“It has been a privilege to be a part of the ACC for over five decades and my respect and appreciation for those associated with the league throughout its history is immeasurable,” said Swofford. “Having been an ACC student-athlete, athletics director and commissioner has been an absolute honor. 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. Nora and I have been planning for this to be my last year for some time and I look forward to enjoying the remarkable friendships and memories I’ve been blessed with long after I leave this chair.”

The 71-year-old Swofford has been asked about his retirement in recent years. In March, he told the Charlotte Observer that he is “not there yet, but we’ll see down the road.”

It is not known if a list of candidates have been developed.

In 23 years as ACC commissioner, Swofford has brought significant change to the conference. Among those:

– Expansion from nine schools to 15 schools with the add-ons of schools like Miami, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College. Louisville joined in 2014 as Maryland departed for the Big Ten.

– An agreement with Notre Dame to join the league in all sports, except for football

– A grant of rights agreement in 2013 that bound the schools together. Any school that chooses to leave would give up future television revenues, which Maryland later challenged.

– The creation of a conference championship game in football in 2005. He also contributed to the formulation of a College Football Playoff

“I’m not sure ACC fans fully appreciate how challenging the job of the commissioner is,” FSU athletics director David Coburn said. “John has led our Conference and also has been one of the driving forces of intercollegiate athletics at the national level for a remarkably long time. He has done both with the class and dignity that befit the schools in the Conference.”

Said FSU president John Thrasher: “I appreciate the support Commissioner Swofford has provided to our university during his tenure as commissioner, and all of us wish him and Nora a happy retirement.”

The ACC evolved into a basketball powerhouse, one that FSU coach Leonard Hamilton often referred to as the toughest in the history of the sport. He often called it the “new ACC” and the addition of programs like Syracuse and Louisville only strengthened the cache the league had as well as the resume of programs as they were being evaluated for consideration in the NCAA Tournament.

“Throughout his tenure at the helm of the ACC, Commissioner Swofford has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to keeping the conference at the forefront of college athletics,” Hamilton said. “What he has done to advance the ACC has been particularly impressive given the ever-changing landscape of college athletics. His foresight as a leader has positioned us to be successful well into the future.”

Swofford also pushed for the creation of the ACC Network, although the process took longer than many of his critics had imagined as they pointed out that the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 had launched channels (and brought in millions in revenue) earlier.

For years Swofford joked that he had few updates on the launch of a channel but in July 2016 announced that the ACC Network would debut in three years. The channel launched in August 2019 and can now be seen in 40-50 million homes, although it is not yet available on Comcast – the largest cable distributor in Florida.

The ACC has seen revenue increases on a year-by-year basis but was fourth among the Power 5 conferences, according to the Raleigh News Observer. In May 2019, the ACC reported revenue of $464.7 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

That put the ACC well behind the Big Ten ($758.9 million) and SEC ($659.9 million) for the same fiscal year. The Pac-12 came in at $496.9 million.


  1. Rey Santana

    Enjoy retirement commish . Let’s just say he underachieved for the ACC , got us to sign a very long deal to give our rights away , but that’s on us for not doing due diligence . Hoping that new blood try to get the conference better financial results .

  2. David Shafer

    With TV revenues playing such a big factor, we should look for someone within upper management of ESPN/other networks that can help us obtain higher revenues. Or, alternatively the #2 guys at the SEC or Big10 who have been there to oversee their successes in revenue generation.

  3. Nicholas Cotroneo

    Complicated is a kind word as the revenue differential between the ACC and the two larger conferences is not related at all to a lack of ability to negotiate a contract. It is a direct result of expanding for the wrong reason with the wrong targets. It is a direct result of allowing the old guard charter members to deny the reality that football has been the primary money maker since the BCS started in 1998. And it has been made worse because of the political gerrymandering that created the divisions, led entirely by the parochial interests of certain members in the Coastal. The ill advised expansion is the original sin, and the division alignment makes forward progress problematic.

  4. Danny Witt

    Swofford has failed on many levels. Put Raycom ahead of the greater good of the member schools. Failed to leverage the ACC basketball rivalries that could have enhanced compensation. Locked in long term deals with only ESPN while others used their deals with CBS and Fox to enhance their compensation. No denying the GOR has been a total disaster for us and I suspect somewhat damaging to others as well. Took far too long to get the ACC Network up and running and let ESPN push him into delaying it giving the BIG and SEC huge jumps on the ACC. The Pompous Jackass should have been fired years ago.

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