In October, just days before one of the signature accomplishments of his tenure was to open, Dan Radakovich left his position as Georgia Tech athletic director for the same position and new challenge at Clemson. It was a position he had sought out, attracted to the school from his first visit to a Tigers football game in 1990.
Friday, the day before his son Christian graduated from Tech in McCamish Pavilion, the basketball arena whose construction he led, Radakovich spoke with the AJC about his old job, his new one and the intersection of both. Questions and answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: How has the job been so far?
A: It’s a new and interesting challenge – learning a lot, listening a lot and just trying to soak in a lot of the nuances and culture of Clemson athletics.
Q: What are some things you hear a lot of that you want to address?
A: I don’t think we’ve reached those conclusions yet. There are some opportunities to continue to outreach, not only with the people within the department, but on campus and members of the various governing boards for Clemson. The net hasn’t been cast out far enough yet to be able to say, ‘O.K., here’s priorities 1 through 3 and they’ve got to get done within X date and there’s priorities 4 through 7 and they’ve got to get done date Y.’
Q: How healthy is the department?
A: I think the department is healthy. Without a doubt, financially, there are always challenges in intercollegiate athletics, but (former AD) Terry Don (Phillips) and the staff that he has here have done a very, very good job of being good stewards of the resources that were given to them and that they generated.
I think what part of my big challenge is to make sure that we continue to move in that positive direction, put the right people in the right places. There is some staff turnover due to retirements that are going to happen, so there’ll be some opportunities to bring some more sets of fresh eyes into the organization. Those are opportunities ahead of us as well.
Q: What are the cultural differences between Tech and Clemson?
A: Every athletic program really wants to have their fan base to be greatly invested in their program. I think both Clemson and Georgia Tech both have that at this point. Clemson has more numbers of people who are in that boat, but that’s probably about it. Scale might be a little different.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you could bring to Clemson from Tech?
A: I think that one of the things that we did successfully at Tech was work through a long-term facility plan and help keep the facilities for Georgia Tech in a very good position to attract quality student-athletes and quality coaches.
There are some facilities that I think we need to sit down with the staff and coaches and university administrators and talk about where we want to be in five to 10 years with some of these things. That is part of the listening process. That’s part of the vetting out of priorities which is going on. The fact that we had done some of those things at Georgia Tech is not lost certainly on our coaches. Our basketball coaches say, ‘Hey, I know what you did down there. When’s that happening here?’ We’re going to see where that falls on the priorities list.
Q: You did the same surveying when you came to Tech. How have the two experiences different?
A: I think that it’s different because I have 6 ½ years of really great experience at a BCS Division I school at Georgia Tech, which is obviously within the same conference and understands the same challenges that go on here. I think it’s also a little different because I spent some time here in the state of South Carolina here in the mid 90’s. There is a little bit more familiarity with some of the processes and structures here than when I left Louisiana and came to Georgia Tech.
Q: Was there a point when you were at Tech that you felt ready to look for another job?
A: No, because I don’t think there was one time that I could point towards there – and I think I’ve said this on a couple of occasions and I certainly mean it – I enjoy Georgia Tech and enjoy it to this day. Saturday, my son (Christian) graduates from Georgia Tech. That’s going to be a special day and Georgia Tech will always be a big part of our lives.
When this opportunity came up, because we know Terry Don and we knew Clemson and again, having spent some time in the state, there was some familiarity with the area and it was geographically in the part of the world that we really enjoy, so that was more of the impetus than anything else. It was circumstances of the particular opportunity as opposed to waking up one day in Atlanta and saying, ‘O.K., I’m done. Let’s start looking somewhere else.’
Q: What was it like watching the ACC Championship game?
A: It was really good. I’ve gone to the ACC Championship game just about every year. John (Swofford) and the folks at the ACC certainly encourage the athletics directors to be there, so it was really kind of interesting watching the Yellow Jackets. Certainly so many friends Dr. (G.P. “Bud”) Peterson and (vice president for development) Barrett Carson and Paul Griffin and all the people in the athletic program. We’re friends, we’re colleagues, we’re still in the same league.
I want them to win every game except one. And I’m sure they feel the same way. It’s great when you’re able to compete with people whom you respect. I respect the folks at Georgia Tech in the highest regard. They do things the right way. They have good people there, and I wish that group only the best.
Q: What do you think it will be like when you attend Tech-Clemson games, like the men’s basketball game at McCamish Pavilion Feb. 14?
A: One of the things that I always used to try to do at athletic events at Georgia Tech is walk around, see people and say hello. I think I’ll probably be sitting in my seat and just watch the game as a visitor to the events. At Bobby Dodd Stadium, the visiting athletics director’s area is right next to (donor) Steve Zelnak’s box and Steve has already told me, ‘We have some surprises for you whenever you show up.’
And Steve has been just absolutely fantastic. Whatever success we had in the program, I owe a lot of that to the generosity and philanthropy of the Zelnak family. When President Peterson asked Steve to be the chairperson for the (AD) search committee, he couldn’t have made a better choice.
Q: Thoughts on your successor?
A: I know it’s a good job because of folks who are at Georgia Tech and I will certainly, when that person is named, reach out and let them know that I wish them all the best and I if I could ever be of assistance – as we within the ACC, we have a very collegial group of athletics directors who are not put upon at all when you pick up the phone and ask them about situations X and Y and how would you handle it – certainly would continue in that vein and hope to assist in whatever way possible the new person at Georgia Tech.
Q: Have you moved already?
A: We’re in the real estate market in Atlanta right now. Marcie is back at home working on selling the house. I have an apartment here, so it’s close by campus, which is wonderful and convenient. I don’t want you to be jealous, but I’ve used a quarter tank of gas in a week. And I don’t have a moped. But it is close. The traffic jams here are just minor backups. That’s one of the things that’s certainly very different when you make that kind of change.
Q: What have you done with all of your Tech stuff?
A: We passed them out to the brothers at ATO fraternity, where my son has received a fairly big care package. I know that there’s a few young men walking around campus in some very, very nice gear.
I think there’s some folks in the neighborhood who were Georgia Tech fans that we gave some things to. It was surprising, the amount of things you accumulate over a period of time.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog