Dan Radakovich: From Tech AD to Clemson’s guiding light

D-Rad at Media Day. I'm in there, too. (Chip Towers/AJC photo)

D-Rad at Media Day. I’m in here, too. (Chip Towers/AJC photo)

GLENDALE, ARIZ. – Georgia Tech folks figured Dan Radakovich’s ultimate goal was to be athletic director at a school with a brand-name football program, which isn’t to say Tech is absent of tradition and didn’t play good football while D-Rad was there. But he’d apprenticed at LSU, among the biggest of the big, and those around him just assumed he’d someday flee the Flats for a slightly greener pasture.

Sure enough, Radakovich exited in 2012 after six years at Tech for a campus that has lots of green grass – and orange paw prints painted on the roads.

Let no one say that D-Rad hasn’t used his bigger pulpit to maximal effect. For several weekends a year, he sits in a room with famous folks like Archie Manning, Tom Osborne and Condoleezza Rice on the College Football Playoff selection committee. And, as fate would have it, Radakovich’s program was to play Monday night in the playoff’s championship game.

Throughout the fall, Clemson’s AD had to leave the committee room more often than a nervous test-taker with a pea-sized bladder. Whenever the Tigers were discussed –  and they were No. 1 in every set of rankings – D-Rad would recuse himself. What would he do while waiting outside? What every human being in the 21st Century does: He fiddled with his phone.  (He was famous at Tech for answering every email.)

Ful disclosure: I’ve always liked Radakovich. (Fuller disclosure: My daughter works for the same Marietta-based firm as his son.) The one time I felt moved to criticize him – when Tech was slapped with four years’ NCAA probation stemming from its mishandling of the Demaryius Thomas case, which had the ancillary effect of vacating the Jackets’ 2009 ACC title – I gritted my teeth while typing. He’s a smart guy who did some fine work for Tech, and now he’s presiding over an athletic program that houses a football team that figures to stay really good for a long time.

After tonight’s title tilt, D-Rad will begin the business of sweetening Dabo Sweeney’s contract. From accidental interim head coach in 2008, Dabo has grown into a polished steward – though still homespun, and still given to treating every media question as fodder for a filibuster – of a burgeoning program. There’s thought now that Dabo, an Alabama grad, could someday succeed Nick Saban. That notion would have been laughed out of court not long ago.

“It’s important to have continuity,” Radakovich said. “He loves Clemson, and the Clemson family loves Dabo. He’s in the top echelon of coaches.”

When he came to Tech, Radakovich inherited Chan Gailey and Paul Hewitt, both of whom had onerous buyouts and whose programs began to evince diminishing returns. Radakovich fired Gailey two days after the Georgia game in 2007 and hired Paul Johnson, which was an immediate upgrade. Hewitt was two days after the Jackets were eliminated from the 2011 ACC tournament, a dismissal only made possible by D-Rad’s ability to free the $7 million the coach was owed. He hired Brian Gregory, whose program is showing signs of life after four desultory seasons.

Inheriting Dabo was rather different. He’s so doggone ingratiating that even Johnson, who likes almost nobody, calls him a buddy. “There’s a very short list of people who don’t like Dabo,” Radakovich said.

On Media Day at the Phoenix Convention Center, the AD who as a CFP committeeman has to stay objective showed no such restraint. He wore an orange Clemson sweater and orange sneakers. When I saw him before Tech played at Clemson in October, he sported a purple vest and orange pants. Working for the Tigers is not for the fashionably faint of heart.

Was this journey to the pinnacle of the biggest college sport what D-Rad had in mind when he took the Clemson job? “Absolutely,” he said. “No question. Our administration looks at our program as a really good partner.”

I reminded him of what the splendid Tech player Ken Swilling, who’d grown up just across the state line in Toccoa, said of playing in Death Valley: “You look up and you think, ‘Where’d all these people come from?”

D-Rad laughed. “There aren’t a lot of people in Clemson,” he said, “but there are a lot of people in the Upstate. And on game days, a lot of roads leads to Clemson.”

Further reading: Does Clemson have a chance against Bama? Yes, I say.

Kirby Smart would welcome a dual-threat QB at UGA.

How “UConn” changed the game for Clemson and daring Dabo.

Doubt this. Clemson overpowers Oklahoma.

Having grown into his job, Dabo’s no dud.

Deshaun Watson: Another QB from Georgia eyes the big prize.

Loganville’s Wayne Gallman: A big deal for No. 1 Clemson.

Clemson is good enough to hush all those ACC skeptics.

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

Bama is a has been and will lose 3-4 more games. Okay it wasnt bama just the rest of the sec, big 10, and now ACC that were the weak link.

Signed, GT Boob!

MyMourningJacket
MyMourningJacket

He found a good landing spot. His experiment for success at limited Tech, to use Navy style offense and try and win 8 or 9 games every other season, seems on the verge of failure. Did he leave us a mess?  What we will say if next year is 6-6.  Improvement?  A bright future?

he_of_stinky_wind
he_of_stinky_wind

Watson didn't go to Clemson because of the AD.


Watson is THE only reason Clemson is suddenly "great".

crr80000
crr80000

My Uncle Cooper recently got a real cool Infiniti QX80 SUV by working off of a computer... Read More Here


--------------------> profit-online8­­.Comllllllll

TOJacket
TOJacket

That Bama defense was awesome... lol..........Clemson got jobbed by a biased ref crew.

DawgNole
DawgNole

MB: "Radakovich fired Gailey two days after the Georgia Tech game in 2007 . . . ."

______________________ 

WHICH "Georgia Tech" game???

I seem to recall that there were several GT games in 2007.

GTBob
GTBob

DRad Positives - Was reasonably good at fund raising and had a decent relationship with donors. Had good communication with fans. Built some buildings.

DRad Negatives - Single handedly got us on probation, instituted the Tech fund which has been a mess and hampered ticket sales, raised student athletic fees, waited too long to pull the trigger on Hewitt and made a mediocre higher after he left, had a poor relationship with the administration at Tech following the NCAA probation. 

All in all, he was pretty awful at Tech. You obviously had a nice friendship with him if you think he did a fine job. Here is a good measure of how good of a job an AD did. How successful have Tech athletics been since he left? Did he leave us in a good position to succeed? No. He was awful, and we were lucky he left when he did.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTBob: "All in all, he was pretty awful at Tech."

_____________________

That means he must've been pretty damn good--based on the validity of your assessments of Bama, and of Richt's longevity at UGA:

_____________________

GTBob September 24, 2015

. . . Bama is a has been at this point. They will finish with 3-4 losses minimum this year.

GTBob November 3, 2015

We could beat UGA by 50 points and that guy [Richt] isn't going anywhere.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket @DawgNole 

It's "friends," fool! Educate yourself for a change.

And I have many more than you do, based on the reactions to your ad nauseum proclamations about "owning this state."

Always dishing it out, then crying when you get it handed back to you. Our resident whining hypocrite.

GTBob
GTBob

I'm not sure you know the difference in a prediction and an assessment of the job someone did. Bless your heart.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTBob 

Doesn't matter what you call them; you're usually wrong on both--despite your stomach-churning narcissism:

GTBob November 23, 2015

I already know i'm right most of the time. I don't need to be told it.

GaGirrl
GaGirrl

@DawgNole @GTBob Seriously? Just because he can't predict football scores doesn't mean that the facts about DRad's actions and performance isn't accurate. 

He's also floating trying to institute a student athletic fee at Clemson, but they're smart enough to tell him to pound sand and balance his football budget. Wish we had been as fiscally responsible.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GaGirrl

He's also a narcissistic, hate-driven, lying hypocrite--as has been well-documented many times.

Take a hike, bimbo. You're way out of your league.

Caius
Caius

He personally put Tech on probation>

dawg fan
dawg fan

“There’s a very short list of people who don’t like Dabo."  I'm on it.  I think he's a clown.  A smackdown is coming tonight and he won't be able to blame it on the punter.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@dawg fan 

dawg fan November 5, 2015

If this [UGA] is a 10 win team I'm the freaking Cookie Monster.

________________________

Dang, you're almost as bad as GTBob. Does Clemson have hope now?

Oh yeah, how 'bout them cookies, df?!

 

GTBob
GTBob

In his defense, UGA probably had the most mediocre 10 win season in football history.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTBob 

Did they win 10 games or not?

That--not mediocrity--was the topic.

RUM
RUM

He baled From GT and left them holding the bag with all the money gone from his terrible contract negotiations with the coaches. David Braine and DR wrecked Tech's athletic budget for years, just now starting to see the light.

GaGirrl
GaGirrl

@RUM He also was responsible for increased student athletic fees, something they're trying to institute at Clemson (they don't have student athletic fees at all), which thankfully they are pushing back on.