Radakovich’s exit shows disparity between Tech, Georgia

The financial issues that Dan Radakovich dealt with at Tech won't be an issue at Clemson. (AP photo)

The financial issues that Dan Radakovich dealt with at Tech won't be an issue at Clemson. (AP photo)

It’s almost always about money. There may be other factors in changing jobs: Going back home, returning to an alma mater, or, as Dan Radakovich said Tuesday, having the desire to “get into a collegiate environment. I hadn’t had the opportunity to be in a pure college town.”

A nice sentiment. But primarily it’s still about the money, either what one can make or one can spend.

When Radakovich resigned from the athletic director’s job at Georgia Tech for the same position at Clemson, it said as much about his former employer than his new one. Radakovich won’t have to sell a ticket or plead with donors at Clemson, which is what he had to do at Tech. The pressure for victories and the chase for dollars is greater than ever in college athletes – too great, actually, but that’s a topic for another column – and right now Tech just isn’t all that attractive.

Radakovich won’t say that. But he’ll use words like “challenges” and “difficulties.” He was weary of trying to get people to “jump off the connector” in hopes he could alter their perceptions of what the metro campus looked like. He won’t criticize Tech’s high academic requirements or limited number of majors, but he’ll amplify on the difficulty coaches have to convince recruits that the school can provide an “enriching” experience.

That’s why he was so driven to improve and add facilities. “Sometimes they [recruits] make their decision first with their eyes,” he said.

Here’s the problem: While Radakovich denies also that the Tech AD position is a “steppingstone” job, relative to others in major college athletics, that’s basically what he just affirmed by leaving one ACC job for another, just two hours up the interstate. He is close with Clemson’s retiring AD, Terry Don Phillips,  and had coveted the impending vacancy for several months.

Greg McGarity knows what drives Radakovich and what wears on him (or any athletic director). (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Greg McGarity knows what drives Radakovich and what wears on him (or any athletic director). (Curtis Compton/AJC)

None of this bodes well for the perception of Tech on the college sports landscape, and we haven’t addressed the ever-present shadow cast by the beast in Athens. Georgia and Georgia Tech are different campuses with different missions. But they’re rival programs in close proximity of each other. The financial situations at the two athletic departments are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

According to the Equity in Athletics database, which tracks budgets of every collegiate athletic program, Tech’s sports teams had total revenues of $46,910,364 for the one-year period ending June 30, 2012. Georgia was nearly double that at $91,670,613.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said he wasn’t surprised by Radakovich’s exit. The two have known each other for years and speak often. He knows what drives the man. “When he was at American University, he missed the bright lights of big-time college athletics,” McGarity said.

He also knows what can wear down an athletic director.

“The financial challenges to run a college athletic program are much more difficult at some institutions than others,” McGarity said. “When you have a strong fan base and full stadiums and when you have a tremendous level of support, it makes your job easier from a fundraising standpoint. Financial circumstances can be taxing mentally. You’re always worrying about where the next dollar will come from. It wears on athletic directors just as it wears on anyone. There’s a constant pressure.”

Radakovich was back in his Edge Athletic Center office Tuesday for some desk cleanout. Asked about the challenges of running athletics at the Institute, he didn’t hesitate: “Always looking at ways to get people to consistently come to the stadium and the venues. When we’re winning, attendance is good. When we’re OK, attendance is OK. When we’re not winning, attendance falls. The challenge is to create a bigger core. We tried a lot of things to get that to happen.”

Some have characterized Radakovich’s decision to leave as “jumping ship.” That’s overstatement. Tech isn’t in financial straits. The football team, while struggling, isn’t devastated. But his departure is a reality check for the school.

Radakovich tries to minimize Georgia comparisons, saying, “The comparisons aren’t fair because the schools aren’t chartered the same, and they don’t have the same level of resources athletically. … Georgia has been up the street for the last 100 years. It’s a factor. It’s something that you have to manage each and every day. But it doesn’t make the list of why we do what we do.”

He was still saying “we” Tuesday. A day earlier, he was putting on a bright orange sports jacket at a news conference. “We” is past tense. And the jacket he put on Monday might as well have been green.

By Jeff Schultz

517 comments Add your comment

GeoffDawg

October 30th, 2012
2:34 pm

Pretty pragmatic approach to the job. Take out the fandom part of it and people make attractive lateral and upward moves all the time. Sounds like he left Tech on stable financial footing and with the exception of the bungled NCAA investigation, he never embarrassed the institute. Final grade, probably a B-.

funny...

October 30th, 2012
2:36 pm

$91 million is a staggering amount of money.

Almost $140 million in the state, to two college athletic programs.

Frank Reames

October 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

Just one comment. Everything you say here is true. I am not clouded by this reality as an alumnus. However, Atlanta can be a selling point too. FSU is in the middle of Tallahassee, Ohio State in Columbus, with very nice campuses and a great fan base. Promotion is the name of the game.

Frank Reames

October 30th, 2012
2:45 pm

Enter your comments here

Hankie Aron

October 30th, 2012
2:45 pm

I always want Tech to win except the Saturday after turkey. That day they are vermin to me.

Murray's Man Purse

October 30th, 2012
2:46 pm

Always wanted to be first. Dang, almost made it this time.

Sammy Dawg

October 30th, 2012
2:48 pm

Enter your comments here

Utah Dawg

October 30th, 2012
2:48 pm

“And the jacket he put on Monday might as well have been green.” What’s your point…that people leave one job to make more money and have greater opportunity at another? This just in…the sun will rise tomorrow. It’s a poorly written not so transparent criticism that mars an otherwise interesting article.

Hankie Aron

October 30th, 2012
2:48 pm

Frank- You make a couple of points but what or who do you promote? Paul Johnson? He has the likeability of a billy goat in pain. Sadly there isn’t 1 player on Tech’s sidelines that would be considered marketable. The best NFL talented player is an offensive lineman ( Uzzi) and offensive lineman have never been promotional material.

Sammy Dawg

October 30th, 2012
2:49 pm

It’s knida sad. Tech (athletically) is more like Georgia State now than Georgia.

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
2:49 pm

To the extent that Tech is not as attractive as other schools – and I agree that we aren’t athletically particularly attractive – it’s a choice. This irritates our rivals, particularly those 90 miles to east, because they want to think they’re winning the same game. We want to beat them because we know it’s harder at Tech, and that’s probably one of the reasons many of us chose to attend there.

The real disparity....

October 30th, 2012
2:49 pm

GT is an academic school. UGA is an athletic school. That’s how it’s always been.

All you had to do to make that conclusion is look at the endowments of each, alongside those sports revenues. UGA has about 500 million in endowment, and GT has 1.6 billion.

Murray's Man Purse

October 30th, 2012
2:50 pm

Frank @ 2:43

Yes, but big differences. Those other schools are 2x or 3x the size (enrollment) of GT and have a much bigger alumni and fan base.

Also, I don’t know about Columbus, but Tallahassee is a nice place. Atlanta is a cess pool. That doesn’t help recruiting and convincing moms and dads to send their kids there.

Hankie Aron

October 30th, 2012
2:51 pm

I fear for Tech fans that Paul Johnson will have to depart before they are to see the football team become relevant again. He just isn’t a D1 recruiter and it shows on Saturdays.

mike holland

October 30th, 2012
2:52 pm

sound financial condition??/he doubled our debt in 6 years

Sammy Dawg

October 30th, 2012
2:52 pm

It’s going to be a while before we hear much out of the football program at Ole Tech. A while meaning 7-10 years at best.

Under The Bleachers

October 30th, 2012
2:52 pm

Jeff,

Most fans do not understand the Tight Rope that AD’s are required to walk. On one side they have to answer to the President, and Board Members and or Trustees. The good ones hire folks to assist him/her and take part of the burden away and allows them to focus on the bigger issues.
The AD’s who look like a duck in water are the ones who seem to be the most successful. They look all graceful up top( media relations, churn in money, and get the big wins in sports) but are paddeling like a mad man underneath( hire, fire, raise money, fight NCAA, SEC, and every common issue an athletic department has) just to stay ahead.
It takes a special talent to be successful as a Big Time School AD. When things are good they make it look easy, when times are bad they still make it look easy and with each decision they make it looks like the right one.

Hankie Aron

October 30th, 2012
2:54 pm

George Stein- Your comments at 2 49. Can you expound on that? I’m trying to understand what you mean them?

Sammy Dawg

October 30th, 2012
2:54 pm

Sorry Murray’s Man Purse, but as a Dad of a FSU student, Tallahasse off campus is a dump.

macrotech

October 30th, 2012
2:58 pm

Sooooo? In short, DRad wanted the easier road? Tech is a tough sell…no doubt! What we need is an AD that lives for a challenge…someone that responds to, “I bet you can’t”! DRad did some good things for us at Tech and I wish him the best…that said, let’s get a bolder AD and get this thing turned around. GO TECH!!!

come on

October 30th, 2012
3:01 pm

jeff have you ever sat down to consider GT gets little press nationally, and the coverage we receive from the local market is negative and if yall say anything good about tech it is more of a back handed compliment. even the radio station covering tech loves disrespecting them. maybe if the press was to highlight the positives of georgia tech athletics and cover the teams with a little less uga slant people would get more excited about the institute and all it has to offer.

flagboy?

October 30th, 2012
3:04 pm

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
2:49 pm
To the extent that Tech is not as attractive as other schools – and I agree that we aren’t athletically particularly attractive – it’s a choice. This irritates our rivals, particularly those 90 miles to east, because they want to think they’re winning the same game. We want to beat them because we know it’s harder at Tech, and that’s probably one of the reasons many of us chose to attend there.
_____________________

I would argue that many people go to tech to become engineers or whatever. I would also say that many people attend UGA to become lawyers, teachers, etc. Many tech people believe that their choice of university/institute proves some sort of intellectual superiority. So no, your “choice” of school does not bother me. . .

I wonder if tech people will take any joy in beating Duke. Or if Duke people will take any joy in beating tech this year.

GT 70

October 30th, 2012
3:04 pm

It is amazing the number of retired (and current) pro athletes who call Atlanta their home. Tech needs to reach out to them, get them involved. Yes, Ray Lewis will always be a ‘U’, but they can have a second team, especially local, they can support.

Somehow Tech just doesn’t market well. How many college stars go back to their college towns after playing days are over – not many if it is Athens, Clemson, etc.

Good luck to Rad and let’s find another Homer Rice.

Murray's Man Purse

October 30th, 2012
3:04 pm

Sorry Sammy. Compared to Atlanta, Tallahassee is a very nice place. Don’t know what parts of Tall you get around to or don’t but overall it’s very nice.

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
3:07 pm

Sure, Hankie. I think the reason Georgia fans trot out 10 of 11 all the time is because they want to believe it means a damned thing. Truth is, with them having every conceivable advantage, they should win at that rate. It’s not an excuse for Trch or a criticism of UGA to say that we don’t recruit at the NCAA minimum of that you can’t major in sports studies at Tech. It just is.

The reason we want to beat them so badly is because it requires perfection of ourselves, and if that’s something that scares you, Tech probably isn’t the place for you.

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
3:07 pm

I’m a lawyer, flagboy, and I graduated from Tech.

OkieDawg

October 30th, 2012
3:09 pm

Trailerhassee…Nice? I don’t think so.

Hang Time

October 30th, 2012
3:09 pm

Buzz Peterson hasn’t been able to manage something as straight forward as the perception of a crime problem on campus, how will he do navigating the effective hiring the right AD at a critical time? I hear climate change and social justice are important to him.

wolfman

October 30th, 2012
3:09 pm

FSU and Ohio State may be in the middle of cities (if you can compare them to Atlanta??) but they are not predominately engineering schools. I bet the athletic budgets at GT are greater than those at MIT and Cal Tech.

GTBob

October 30th, 2012
3:10 pm

UGA is a football factory. GT is a small engineering school focused almost entirely on academics. Personally, i’m surprised we are even as close as we are.

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
3:13 pm

UGA is a good school, GTBob, but they play a different game than we do. Even still, they handcuff themselves in the SEC because they won’t oversign. They deserve credit for that.

WTH

October 30th, 2012
3:14 pm

“Always looking at ways to get people to consistently come to the stadium and the venues. When we’re winning, attendance is good. When we’re OK, attendance is OK. When we’re not winning, attendance falls. The challenge is to create a bigger core. We tried a lot of things to get that to happen.”

Right, and Radakovich was the man who made that attitude worse, not better, with his Tech Fund debacle. Last year, total alumni donations via the Tech Fund were slightly BELOW what they were 6 years ago under the A-T Fund. Because of his stupidity and arrogance, many loyal fans quit donating to the AA, or dropped their tickets altogether. If you factor in inflation over the past 6 years, Tech is in an even bigger hole. And if you want to see what’s happened to attendance, just go to the Duke game in November. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to walk right up to the ticket office and get great seats anywhere in the stadium, and probably at a huge discount.

Now we have the “loyalty be damned, money talks, B.S. walks” system. It works fine when the team is playing well. Problem is, when the team is mediocre or bad, there is ZERO incentive to keep your seats. Just sit out a season or two, because you know you can buy right back into good seats anytime you want. That’s the little detail that DRad never seemed to grasp – Tech has more good seats than people willing to pay for them, and you can’t treat loyal Tech fans like SEC sidewalk fans if you expect to fill a stadium during bad years.

He’ll do fine at Clemson. He can treat Clemson fans even worse than he treated Tech fans, and they’ll just sit there and take it, because they know there’s always someone else waiting in line for their seats.

B

October 30th, 2012
3:14 pm

Good article.

wolfman

October 30th, 2012
3:14 pm

The fact that there is a disparity doesn’t bother me. I am proud of what Tech does with what it has athletically, while being superior to UGA in almost all academic rankings.

OkieDawg

October 30th, 2012
3:14 pm

With all this GT rationalizing, maybe GT should just drop it’s football program and concentrate on lacrosse and soccer. BDS would be a nicer venue for those sports than football. And with that huge endowment you would think GT could spend some money to keep the fans from falling out of the stadium.

An Ear To The Ground

October 30th, 2012
3:15 pm

I heard that Damon Evans is in Atlanta as we speak, or write, as the case may be. Tech may be getting an upgrade.

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
3:17 pm

The funny thing about it is UGA is becoming more like Tech every year because the academic profile of their student population has increased so tremendously. I laugh when I hear the jokes about how we don’t fill our stadium, because UGA students don’t go to the games like they used to. In 20 years, those students who don’t attend will be alums who don’t attend.

Technically Correct

October 30th, 2012
3:19 pm

The vast majority of 4 and 5-star high school athletes couldn’t spell “Tech,” much less make it there as students. They likely have achieved 4 and 5-star status, because they allocated much more of their time and effort to athletics than to academics. These kids see themselves in the NFL one day, but, sadly, most will fail to reach that goal and most will have to fall back on whatever level of education they managed to salvage in college. They don’t see that reality as 17 and 18 year-olds. Tech has to compete for top caliber athletes within an ever-shrinking pool of true, quality student athletes. That’s tough, when the competition is the likes of Stanford, Notre Dame and other universities that value high academic standards. Folks, it is what it is. With rare exception, Tech will continue to fight with smaller, slower, less gifted players, but players, who, in the long run, will achieve great successes in life due to the educations they will receive at Tech.

coachx

October 30th, 2012
3:19 pm

Frank Reames comment on Atlanta being a selling point to recruits is hilarious.

There is NOTHING attractive about Atlanta as a “college town”. The only thing attractive about Georgia Tech is their engineering degree. If you do not plan to major in engineering then there is nothing Georgia Tech has to offer.

That my friends is the plain and simple truth.

GTBob

October 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

And with that huge endowment you would think GT could spend some money to keep the fans from falling out of the stadium.

Nice, UGA fans taking shots at injured fans who have done nothing to them. Way to keep it classy OkieDawg.

Rick

October 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

Radokovich did a pretty good job at Tech. Now he’s taken a job where he’ll make more money and have less to do and less to worry about. Who can blame him for that? Let’s move on.
As far as the comparison to UGA goes, in terms of enrollment and monetary resources, it’s the same as comparing a AAA high school to a AAAAAA school. Radokovich obviously understands that. Why is it that most people on these blogs can’t?

Jacket Man

October 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

Compared to Dave Braine, DRad was a breath of fresh air and he did an admirable job of “righting” a listing ship as far as I’m concerned. He’s leaving the Athletic Programs/facilities in much better shape than he found them when he arrived. Whoever comes in next will have a much easier job starting off than DRad did when he stepped on campus.

Is everything perfect with all GA Tech athletics? No. I think the same can be said with virtually every program in the country. My biggest concern is the “type” of AD being brought in to replace DRad. I don’t want a crony who will be a yes man to the President to the Institute but someone who will be an advocate to the Athletic Association. We don’t need someone who will be here for a couple of years because they’re either too old (read that Bill Curry) or just looking at making a quick move to somewhere else.

The new AD also needs to understand that GA Tech is a “unique” opportunity because of the academic requirements associated with the sports, the limited class offerings, and the small local fan base and local alumni. While these may be “challenges” on their face, they also present possibilities, and a new AD must be a visionary who can lead the program(s) forward.

WTH

October 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

>> In 20 years, those students who don’t attend will be alums who don’t attend.

True, George. Problem is, it’s happening at Tech as well as UGA. The difference is that UGA can always fill its stadium with sidewalk fans even if the alumni don’t care. But if we lose our alumni fan base, Tech is well and truly screwed.

OkieDawg

October 30th, 2012
3:23 pm

Not a shot at the poor fans that are injured at all. It’s an indictment against an administration that has allowed this to happen multiple times.

George Stein

October 30th, 2012
3:24 pm

No doubt, WTH.

Tech is in GA?

October 30th, 2012
3:24 pm

Why is it that Tech always look for excuses? We can’t compete because our academics are too strong ( I think Stanford is probably considered a decent University and Rutgers pops up from time to time). We can’t recruit because of our inner city environment ( yet Atlanta thrives with recruiting Celebs and business). Every college in the country face challanges, some just whine more about it

Paddy

October 30th, 2012
3:24 pm

Sammy…..You must have very high standards. Tallahassee is a relativly safe and clean place A good Southern city. It has low population and is surrounded by endless places for recreation and solid entertainment, dining. Whats not to like You call it a dump, can’t imagine why! Plus it has a top ten in the country bass lake. (Lake Jackson)

arg_atl

October 30th, 2012
3:25 pm

As is typical, Tech alumni/dorm dwellers/Word of Warcraft groupies respond to a column about their institution’s athletic shortcomings by insulting the University of Georgia’s academics. I will say, first, that both are very good public universities, each with a different focus. Look at the US News rankings – Tech has a higher rank but both are very solid.

Second, academics is a completely lame excuse for failing in athletics. If you’re an institution of smart, competent people, you should strive to, and ultimately succeed, in showing that in everything you do. Again using US News as an objective source of academic merit, there are plenty of institutions ranked much higher than Tech that have had considerably more major college athletic success in football and men’s basketball in recent history.

Here are some “national universities” ranked higher than Tech that have been clearly better than Tech in football and/or men’s basketball over than last two decades: Stanford, Duke, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA, Southern Cal, Virginia, Wake Forest, Michigan, and North Carolina.

My guess is that if men’s basketball tanked at Duke or North Carolina the way football and men’s basketball have at Tech, the alumni wouldn’t be all over blogs trashing whatever school was dominating them and consoling themselves about how their “academic standards” prevented them from competing. They’d demand the situation be fixed and hold the athletic administration to account.

GTBob

October 30th, 2012
3:25 pm

There is NOTHING attractive about Atlanta as a “college town”.

What exactly does Athens offer that Atlanta doesn’t offer?

Sugar Hill Dawg

October 30th, 2012
3:26 pm

“It’s not an excuse for Trch or a criticism of UGA to say that we don’t recruit at the NCAA minimum of that you can’t major in sports studies at Tech. It just is.”

I taught several Tech athletes in high school (Gwinnett County Public Schools) – I still don’t know how they got our of high school, much less into Tech (AND stayed eligible for four years). The “we don’t recruit the same guys as Clemson, UGA, Auburn, etc.” is a load of horse manure.