After more than two decades leading the Atlantic Coast Conference, commissioner John Swofford will retire after the 2020-21 athletic year.

Swofford, who became the conference’s commissioner in 1997, announced his decision on Thursday.

Swofford, who will retire after his 24th year leading the league, is the longest-tenured commissioner in ACC history. The former North Carolina football player and eventual UNC athletics director helped the conference grow from nine teams to 15, while also playing a role in adding the ACC Network in 2019.

“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. “Having been an ACC student-athlete, athletics director and commissioner has been an absolute honor.”

After earning a master’s degree from Ohio University, Swofford started his career at the University of Virginia. He worked under Gene Corrigan before becoming UNC’s athletics director in 1980. He served in that role for 17 years before becoming the ACC Commissioner.

When Swofford took over at North Carolina, the Tar Heels were on a 23-year drought without winning a national title. UNC won a national championship in each of Swofford’s 17 years guiding the athletic department.

Swofford’s illustrious career as ACC Commissioner includes a role in helping create the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in men’s and women’s basketball. He also launched the ACC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and an annual ACC Mental Health and Wellness Summit.

“John Swofford’s influence and guidance has allowed the ACC to be a leader on the college sports landscape,” Virginia athletics director Carla Williams said in a statement. “His compassion and care for this conference and its members has set an incredibly high standard and his forward thinking has helped to position the league for future growth and success. It has been an honor to work with him, and to learn from him, during my time at UVa. I wish John and Nora the best as he finishes his tenure at the ACC and prepares for the next phase of his life.”

While the announcement shared that Swofford will move on after the next athletic year, he’s still the conference’s commissioner for the next year.

That means Swofford will guide the league as it maneuvers through a global pandemic as well as a time of racial unrest in the United States.

“There are immediate challenges that face not only college athletics, but our entire country,” Swofford said, “and I will continue to do my very best to help guide the conference in these unprecedented times through the remainder of my tenure.”

Swofford added that he and his wife, Nora, were planning on the 2020-21 athletic year being his last “for some time.”

“I look forward to enjoying the remarkable friendships and memories I’ve been blessed with long after I leave this chair,” Swofford said.

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