Syracuse’s John Wildhack Keeps an Eye Toward the Future

March 5th, 2019 | by CollegeAD
Syracuse’s John Wildhack Keeps an Eye Toward the Future
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“There’s always working going on, you have to have an eye clearly on the future.”

Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack has his vision squarely focused on the future of his university and the changing way people consume sports. The former ESPN executive turned AD saw an opportunity for Syracuse and students enrolled in the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse.

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Syracuse University Athletics

“We look at this as not only athletics, ACC project, we looked at this as an academic component as well,” Wildhack said about ACC Network which will launch in August.

Wildhack helped secure a $118 million investment from the University to create in-house production unit in partnership with Newhouse and for enhancements to the Carrier Dome.

“We are very fortunate, we’ve got a great relationship with Newhouse,” said Wildhack. “We’ve really utilized their facilities. We needed to add some equipment, but what we’ve been able to do is present undergrad students with an opportunity to play a vital role in live game productions. The practical experience they’re gaining will serve them incredibly well.”

Wildhack is enthusiastic to see students involved with every broadcast for ACC Network Extra, the league’s online option that currently streams live events.

Syracuse is the only school to provide live pregame and halftime shows for the ACC Network Extra, with students serving as hosts, analysts, producers, directors, associate directors, and production assistants.

However, this in-house production team is only one of the components to a much larger vision.

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Syracuse University Athletics

The $118 million in funds also enables the University to move forward with Phase I improvements to the Carrier Dome. The venue is used over 250 days a year by the university and the central New York community. The improvements will include a new fixed roof, vertically-hung scoreboard, and state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

“We are in the process of securing the permits, doing some underground work. There will be some exterior work that will start this spring. It’s an incredibly exciting project. The fact that it plays host to five of our sports makes it one of the most unique venues in the country. Plus, it also serves our university community.”

Wildhack says they will have to take care of scheduling around the improvements, once the work on the roof gets started. Basketball will have a heavy home schedule to start the season, as will lacrosse, to get as many home games in as possible. Meaning games such as the February 23rd matchup with Duke that drew a record crowd would have to be earlier in the season.

With the game being on a Saturday and the Orange expecting a record crowd, Syracuse tweaked ticket sales, opting to use a dynamic ticketing model.

“We’ve used this type of ticket selling selectively in the past and I think we will use it selectively in the future,” explained Wildhack. “When you get a game of this stature it’s an entertainment event.”

Wildhack said the school worked closely with ESPN and the ACC to ensure that the home game against Duke would take place on a Saturday for the first time since 2015. On the two occasions that the game has been played on Saturday, the school has announced sellout crowds of 35,446. High-demand tickets are frequently sold by intermediaries for significantly more than face value, generating revenue that is pocketed by intermediaries.

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“If there is a very active secondary market in the days leading up to the game, we want to participate in that. One of the ways we can do that is to hold a number of seats back and price them dynamically,” explains Wildhack.

Single-game tickets started at $90, more than double any other game. The school used dynamic pricing to set the price for the game, meaning the ticket prices changed based on the number of seats available and their market value. Syracuse has used that process for other high-profile games in recent years.

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