You knew Dan Radakovich had won over his constituency when, only months after he’d arrived, Georgia Tech folks were worried he’d leave to go back to LSU. You knew he’d swayed the electorate when Taz Anderson, the former Jacket football captain who’d campaigned hard for fellow alum Bill Curry as athletics director, said of D-Rad the AD: “We’ve got ourselves a star.”
There might be better ADs in this land of opportunity, but there are no better fits. Radakovich is a man who fuses number-crunching — “If there’s one thing Tech people understand, it’s business,” said Chan Gailey, who never quite understood Tech people — with grass-roots politicizing.
“No e-mail goes unreturned,” said Wayne Hogan, Radakovich’s able aide-de-camp. “No phone call goes unanswered. And in this age, that takes some real doing.”
But D-Rad does it. He works 14-hour days as a matter of course. He sees not only the bottom line but the Big Picture. He defuses issues before they become issues. He connects in a way a 21st Century leader must. He has a regular column on RamblinWreck.com, and his annual state-of-our-sports address is available via Webcast. And he does answer those e-mails, which his predecessor Dave Braine couldn’t bear even to read.
D-Rad took over in February 2006 at a time when Tech sports was in trouble both financially and philosophically. Braine had left behind an unpopular football coach (Gailey) with a fat new contract and basketball coach (Paul Hewitt) with an even worse contract. In four-plus years Radakovich has calmed the waters so deftly that even those who consider Hewitt a serial underperformer are confident the AD will make the correct call at the proper time.
Tech, as has been noted, isn’t Georgia. The Bulldogs roll in dough. The Jackets must fight the professional sports teams in the crowded Atlanta market for every dime, and the Falcons and Braves aren’t constrained by Title IX. And then, 2 1/2 years into D-Rad’s term, the economy cratered. A struggling athletics department with a less creative AD might have had to shed a sport or two, but this guy is remarkably skilled at pinching pennies. (Heck, he even rented out the athletic director’s luxury box at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.)
Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. He also hired Paul Johnson. D-Rad canned Chan 51 weeks after the Jackets had played in the ACC championship game and anointed a guy who ran an old-timey offense. In the clear light of hindsight, both moves seem no-brainers. Neither was. On the contrary, both were bold choices. Gailey had never had a losing season, and Johnson’s greatest success had come at Navy. But of such decisions are fortunes changed and stars made, and Radakovich went 2-for-2.
Had he done nothing else except hire PJ for GT, D-Rad would have earned the five-year extension — his deal runs through 2015, which still isn’t as long as Hewitt’s unceasing contract — Tech awarded him Tuesday. But it’s hard to imagine an administrator of this rank doing nothing else. In the academic year just completed, Tech teams won 72.7 percent of their games, which is a credit to many but mostly a credit to the man in charge.
Tech folks can be finicky. They like who they like, sometimes for reasons unclear to those of us on the periphery. (It was always a mystery how quickly and how deeply Tech people disdained both Braine and Gailey.) But when you’ve sold this crowd, you’ve done something. And you knew Dan Radakovich had swayed the masses when you began to hear Tech’s Old Guard suggest that he is, with all due respect to Bobby Dodd and Homer Rice, the finest AD the Institute has known.