One word immediately came to mind with John Swofford’s announcement that he will be retiring after the 2020-2021 school year:
Since its formation in the spring of 1953, the ACC has had a total of four commissioners — Jim Weaver, Bob James, Gene Corrigan and Swofford.
That’s an average term of 17 years each, with Swofford the longest-tenured (24 years) of the group.
He is most likely to be remembered for shepherding the ACC through an expansion that started with Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004, followed by Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville.
Also, the ACC Network was launched during his watch.
Swofford was never one to force his way into the spotlight, but was an obvious successor to Corrigan, his predecessor and mentor.
It was Corrigan, as the athletic director at Virginia from 1971-81, who hired Swofford as UVa’s ticket manager in 1973.
When Virginia won the NCAA men’s basketball championship in 2019, Swofford and his wife, Nora, were sitting to the side in the press room at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, listening intently to the postgame interviews.
He had been UVa’s ticket manager during the 1975-76 season, when the Cavaliers won their first ACC basketball championship.
It was difficult for Swofford to turn down a subsequent offer to work in administration at North Carolina, where he had been a backup quarterback on the football team.
Swofford was not as well known at the time as his brother, the late Oliver Swofford, a singer best known for the popular hit, “Good Morning Starshine” from the musical, “Hair.”
John Swofford’s announcement comes less than six months after his mentor, Corrigan, died in January.
“I will miss him immensely,” Swofford said at the time, “but I am so grateful to have had him as a mentor, boss, friend and colleague for so many years.”
It’s unlikely that the ACC will pursue another former ticket manager as its commissioner.
After Swofford returned to UNC following the 1975-76 school year, he was succeeded as UVa ticket manager by Todd Turner. Turner and Swofford had been fraternity brothers at North Carolina.
Turner worked in administration at Virginia from 1976-87 and later was the athletic director at Connecticut, N.C. State, Vanderbilt and Washington. He subsequently founded College Sports Associates, whose specialties include coaching searches and consulting.
“There are some really good people out there,” Turner said of a possible Swofford successor. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they even looked at a college president. [The commissioner salary] is more than a college president would make in most cases.
“If I were involved, I would want to look to see if there was somebody out there who would check all the boxes. They’re going to pay $2 million-plus and there aren’t too many presidents making that now.
“If they’re paying that, they can hire a lot of good people or talk to them at least. ”