Radakovich took over earlier this month for Terry Don Phillips, who retired after 10 years leading the Tigers’ athletic department. Radakovich was serving as Georgia Tech’s AD when he heard of Phillips’ plans to step down this summer and told him of his interest in the Clemson position.
Radakovich, 54, grew familiar with Clemson as a young athletic administrator at the school’s rival, South Carolina, from 1994-2000 and even after taking on the Yellow Jackets job in 2006, saw the Tigers’ rural campus as a destination job rather than a stepping stone to something bigger.
“It was going to take a real special place for me to leave Georgia Tech,” Radakovich said. “There’s not a lot of them, but this was one.”
And Radakovich doesn’t want to make snap judgments he might regret down the road. So he’s gotten input from Clemson coaches, boosters, fans and athletes to learn more about the university before choosing how best to enhance the athletic department he’ll lead.
“When you walk into a position, you’ll have some preconceived ideas of what need to be done,” Radakovich said. “And in 100 percent of the cases, six months down the road that will be a totally different list.”
Radakovich hopes to keep the school’s signature sport, football, trending upwards as it has the past few seasons. Phillips led a facilities upgrade that modernized the football offices and built a sprawling, new, 80,000-square foot indoor practice facility the team used for the first time on Thursday.
The efforts have led to consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in 22 years. The program brought in more than $15.1 million in 2011 and Radakovich is aware it’s up to him to develop ways to keep fans filling 80,000-seat Memorial Stadium instead of setting in front of big-screen TVs at home on game day.
“What can we do to make the experience from their driveway back to their driveway be a very positive circumstance,” he said. “We need to make our facilities as friendly as they can be. That’s important.”
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said he’d only heard positive things on Radakovich from Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. Swinney and Radakovich say they have gotten along well so far.
“The important thing is just developing a relationship, getting on the same page and trying to do a great job for Clemson,” Swinney said.
Not that football’s the only sport at Clemson. Radakovich says it’s essential he keeps his eyes on all sports in the department, providing coaches and athletes with the support to make them successful.
Tigers basketball coach Brad Brownell said Radakovich has a track record of improving facilities in that sport, something he’s hopeful will happen at Clemson. Georgia Tech recently opened a new, $50 million arena, the McCamish Pavilion last month.
“It’s pretty easy for me to see what’s happened at Georgia Tech in their basketball facilities and understand he’s a big part of that,” Brownell said. “We’ve been working at that here and trying to put some things in place.”
Radakovich made sure all Clemson coaches understand his unbreakable tenets: Follow the rules. Graduate your players. Win.
“All three of those things work in concert,” he said. “What I want to do over the next three-to-six months is understand how things work at Clemson to make those three things happen.”
Radakovich said the time was right for him to leave the Yellow Jackets. With two grown children — son Christian is set to graduate from Georgia Tech while younger son Grant is a freshman football player at Mercer — Radakovich and wife Marcie had flexibility to move.
And Radakovich said he was long drawn to the fervor Clemson fans feel for their Tigers, win or lose.
“I really grew to appreciate that,” he said.