CLEMSON — The longest wall in Dan Radakovich’s office is almost bare.
There’s an undergraduate diploma from Indiana (Pa.), a master’s diploma from Miami (Fla.), a framed mural of a Tiger, and a one-sheet printout with the words of an encouraging fan accentuated in large font.
One of the hundreds of emails Radakovich receives per week, this supporter reached out to Radakovich shortly after he assumed the post as Clemson’s athletic director on Dec. 1, 2012. This particular note stood out, even though it was simply a list of four pieces of advice every good business manager already knows.
“I’ve never been one for motivational slogans,” Radakovich says. “But that one was really kind of interesting.”
The first line resonates with him: “Be your own man. Do things your way.”
Staying true to himself, the approachable Radakovich pens a biweekly letter to school boosters with intricate details about the university’s goals and plans, and in the first few releases he included his personal email address for fans to utilize at their leisure. Transparency is one of Radakovich’s most cherished qualities.
“People have been great,” Radakovich said. “Very few have been negative.”
Radakovich, 55, celebrated his one-year anniversary at his new gig Sunday, and it’s been hard to believe it’s only 12 months. He’s been a busy guy.
Radakovich was the only person asked to serve on both the NCAA’s advisory council to assist Mark Emmert with structural decision-making and on the BCS College Football Playoff committee.
Radakovich said he’s ready for the challenges that come with selecting the four teams to participate in the first-ever college football bracket after the 2014 season, along with choosing matchups in other marquee New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bowl games.
“We know it’s going to be an awful lot of work,” Radakovich said. “But it really doesn’t matter how many weeks it is. You signed up to be a part of this group and you’re going to do what it takes to get it done.”
Starting in the middle of next football season, Radakovich will meet regularly with the other 12 committee members, who are expected to release four preliminary rankings before the actual bracket is formed in early December.
Brandishing a deep background in upgrading athletic facilities, particularly at his previous stop as Georgia Tech AD, Radakovich had to go through the steps to convince the Clemson board of trustees to proceed with investments into major additions, including an oculus in Memorial Stadium.
Step one: look up the word “oculus.” (Per design blueprints, it’s a giant vertical tube, with a clear circular roof letting light into the building.)
“Creating the pedestrian bridge that allows people on the west end of the stadium to freely cross between the areas, or people coming in Gate 13 who have seats in the lower north, and park in some of the areas … they don’t have to go down a hill to go back up a hill to go back upstairs,” Radakovich said. “They can come in basically on the same plane, use that bridge, and walk over into the lower north stands.”
The list of capital projects Clemson University has in mind includes massive upgrades to football, basketball, baseball, tennis and academic services.
Stripping apart and rebuilding Littlejohn Coliseum — which will send the basketball programs to Greenville for the 2015-16 seasons — is priced between $60 million and $80 million.
Football-specific facilities, particularly a brand new office building next to the practice field, is budgeted for $30 million. Memorial Stadium tuneups could be in the $11.5 million to $15.5 million range, a Kingsmore Stadium addition would cost $8.85 million and other assorted projects are slotted at $17.5 million.
“One of our challenges has been — and I think this is important for everyone to know — you can’t just build something that doesn’t have any (material use),” Radakovich said. “It’s got to have a reason for being there. How does it help make the fan experience better? It had to have some practicality associated with it, along with the beauty that kind of finishes off the WestZone area.”
No. 1 priority
Admittedly, Radakovich eased his way into making power decisions on campus. He never felt he was truly in his first year until football season, which started nine months into his tenure Aug. 31 against Georgia at Death Valley.
One of the first major headaches came a few days later.
“We could have had every portable toilet in the southern United States, and it wouldn’t have been enough,” Radakovich said. “Because when you have 150,000 people on campus, and they’re here from 10 a.m. to after midnight, it just doesn’t work.”
Clemson did what it could to fix the bathroom facility issue for future games against Florida State and Georgia Tech, and the problem was solved largely due to fewer numbers pouring onto campus. Radakovich responded with apologies to many indignant emailers.
“The great part was, there were people who actually wrote back and said, ‘Thanks for listening.’ That was important,” Radakovich said. “Because that’s your connectivity to your customer.”
One hassle Radakovich admits Clemson University may never be able to fix: the traffic patterns on game day.
“There are times when 80 to 120 thousand people descend upon this area. The roads weren’t designed to do that, because 358 days a year, that doesn’t happen,” Radakovich said. “So it is a challenge, coming in and sometimes going out of the stadium. That’s a little bit of a given.”
“But outside of that, once you get into your parking space, once you get into the stadium, are we doing all the things that make folks feel like their investment in our program is one that they want to continue to make?”