By Ed McGranahan
CLEMSON — Somewhere between high school and his first job at Long Beach State, the emphasis shifted from the second syllable with a hard “D” to the third with a sharp “K.”
Friends and colleagues typically refer to him as “Rad.”
Whatever they call him, the consensus today among folks in the business was that Clemson University hit a home run by hiring Dan Radakovich to step behind Terry Don Phillips as the school’s new athletic director.
Jim Barker said the pool of candidates wasn’t shallow. After the first round of interviews, Barker and the search committee looked deeper. Last Thursday they took a long look at Kansas State’s John Currie. Folks who knew him from his time at Tennessee were not pleased and Currie was out of the picture the next day.
Barker said the relationship with Radakovich accelerated.
Six years into the job at Georgia Tech, he knew Phillips and Clemson. He had called Phillips to seek counsel, Radakovich said, and he knew it could be a slippery slope after the mess at Georgia Tech last year when he ticked off the NCAA during an investigation.
Barker said he read the NCAA report twice and grilled Radakovich before being satisfied, “or we wouldn’t be here.” Radakovich admitted there were mistakes that he found himself in “the trenches” and promised never to return.
Critical to his candidacy was that as a sitting AD, he knew the ACC. His experience in the SEC was huge, first at South Carolina when the Gamecocks were fledgling members and later during a national championship football season at LSU.
The tangible evidence of his strength as an athletic administrator has been the improvement of facilities at Georgia Tech. He was also involved in shepherding LSU’s upgrade in the football stadium and he was Mike McGee’s point man at South Carolina during construction of the Colonial Center in Columbia.
Yet, perhaps the one quality that encouraged some at Clemson was his background in football. Raised in the Rust Belt of Western Pennsylvania, he comes from an area steeped in football tradition. The list of quarterbacks alone boggles: Lujack, Unitas, Blanda, Namath, Kelly, Marino, and Montana from that thin strip along the rivers.
Coincidentally, the leading internal candidate – senior associate athletic director Bill D’Andrea – is from the same general area. A former coach on Danny Ford’s staff and a popular member of the athletic staff, D’Andrea was the hometown favorite for the job.
At LSU, Radakovich was a senior associate athletic director and Coach Nick Saban’s conduit to the administration. People who worked with him at LSU and Georgia Tech gave him an “A” for his work at both schools, according to a source close to Clemson.
Radakovich also has understands the bottom line, fiscally and academically. His work in improving facilities and structuring opportunities for revenue streams also drew high marks from rival administrators.
Of course, this hire won’t make everybody happy initially.
He isn’t a “Clemson Man,” which tends to be the prerequisite for many, and the trouble last year at Georgia Tech will always hang like an albatross, but if you consider that his most egregious act probably was loyalty to his football coach, it shouldn’t be held against him.
Radakovich said he knew 22 years ago, standing on the floor of Death Valley for the first time with the Long Beach State football team that this could be home.
“We wanted an individual who knew how to lead, how to win, how to generate revenue, how to communicate a vision for Clemson’s future that would rally our students and faculty and coaches and fans,” Barker said. “We believe we have found just that individual.”
What they found was a guy, to those who know him best, called “Rad.”