The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Thursday that Commissioner John Swofford — who oversaw the expansion of the conference and the launch of its own television network — will retire after the 2020-21 academic year, ending his tenure after 24 years.
Swofford, 71, has been commissioner of the ACC since 1997, the longest run in that position in the history of the 67-year-old conference.
The former UNC Chapel Hill athletic director took over as commissioner of a nine-team league. In the years that followed, Swofford directed the league through multiple waves of expansion that ultimately turned the ACC into a 15-team conference. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College came in 2005, and Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame came aboard by 2014.
The conference also launched the “ACC Network” last August, a project that Swofford spent years pursuing as the league hoped to close a growing financial gap with its power-five conference peers.
“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,” Swofford said in a statement. “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.”
A heartfelt congratulations to John Swofford for an amazing career. Your leadership within @theACC has been tremendous. You have led us through many transitions and much growth. We are grateful for your efforts. We wish the best to you and your family for a wonderful retirement!
— Joanne P. McCallie (@CoachPDuke) June 25, 2020
Swofford is a native of Wilkesboro and also played football at UNC Chapel Hill, featuring at defensive back for the Tar Heels’ 1971 ACC Championship team.
During his time as the ACC’s fourth commissioner, he was also instrumental in starting the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in basketball, developing a conference championship game for football and hiring the league’s first full-time women’s basketball administrator.
“Commissioner Swofford has guided the ACC through many challenges including expansion and the launch of ACC Network, thus positioning the conference for continued success well into the future,” N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. “Our entire league owes so much of its success to his steady hand and thoughtful leadership.”
Under Swofford's watch, ACC teams captured 92 national titles.