After two years on the job, Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich recently received a new five-year contract worth $300,000 per year in base salary, plus bonuses that could bring the total to as much as $640,000 per year.
He recently took time to talk with staff writer David Friedlander about a variety of topics, including the current state of and unique challenges facing Tech athletics, the upcoming football season, reaching out to the Jacket fan base and the rivalry with the University of Georgia in this week's "Getting to Know ... "
DF: You recently signed a new five-year contract. In addition to demonstrating your commitment to Georgia Tech athletics for the next five years, this also shows the commitment Tech administration has shown toward you. You've got to feel good about that, don't you?
DR: It's tremendous for myself and my family. I appreciate the confidence the institute has with the direction our programs are headed. We've done some things to try to pull it in the right direction, but we've definitely got more work to do.
DF: You don't even get the summer to enjoy the new contract, do you?
DR: Summer is the busiest time of year, actually. As you prepare for all the activities coming in the fall, you have to take time to reassess and evaluate and close out the fiscal year.
DF: What are the biggest challenges you've faced over the first two years on the job, and what do you consider some of the biggest challenges facing Tech athletics in the coming five years?
DR: In intercollegiate athletics today, the biggest issue may be resources. When I got here, the biggest resource issue we had was financial. We've made tremendous progress in that area with our students and ticket holders. They've really stepped up to the plate and understood the issues we've had. The institute has also realized the valuable part athletics plays as it relates to the students and alumni and how they connect with the institute.
The most important thing for us when I came in here was establishing financial stability. The sale of season tickets at our football stadium is a big part of that.
DF: How are season ticket sales for the upcoming football season looking so far?
DR: We're probably upwards of about 90 percent renewal (from last year). Right now, we're about at 23,000. I'd like to get between 24,000 and 24,500, and maybe if we're lucky, 25,000 by the start of the season.
DF: How would you describe the on-field state of Tech athletics right now?
DR: I can't really qualify that into a blanket statement. We've had some success. We had a women's tennis individual national champion (McDowell), we had multiple teams get to (NCAA) postseason play. Our football team continues to go to bowl games. Our women's basketball team had one of its best seasons ever. It's hard to look at it just in those type of parameters to see where the program is going.
DF: You mentioned (NCAA tennis champ) Amanda McDowell and the success of the basketball program. Add in the women's tennis team's 2007 national championship and multiple postseason appearances in softball and volleyball, and it seems women's programs have become a priority.
DR: We wanted to make sure our women's sports teams had a chance to compete. Softball and volleyball already had success when I came in. With our softball team, there is currently under construction a new facility on campus to replace the old one off campus. And we're continuing to work on getting a basketball practice facility that will aid not only the women's team, but also the men's team.
DF: While the women's sports have been enjoying historic successes, the achievements for Tech's revenue sports - football, men's basketball and baseball - have been seemingly tougher to come by, leaving the Jackets' fan base concerned. What steps can you point to that are being taken that can convince Tech fans better days are ahead?
DR: From a football standpoint, we've changed coaches. We feel good about the changes Paul Johnson has made so far, and we're excited to see the challenges this season will bring.
In basketball, playing in the ACC is a very difficult task, but we lost five games by a total of eight points last season. So, we're not that far away. And when you lose two NBA first-round draft picks, you're going to struggle by all accounts. But we played better at the end of last season than at the beginning.
With baseball, we obviously made it to the postseason, and we did it despite a great tragedy that affected the program.
DF: You're referring to the death of Michael Hutts.
DR: That certainly was a great tragedy beyond words. Life takes on different terms after something like that, and we feel every day for the (Hutts) family in dealing with that tragedy. We were all very grief stricken. The way (baseball coach) Danny Hall and his staff kept the team together was outstanding.
But getting back to the original question, all three of our (revenue sport head) coaches are quality individuals who know what it's like to be successful on and off the field. And I'm confident they'll do the necessary things to be successful.
DF: It looks like you've also made an attempt to reach out to the Tech fan base with a caravan allowing fans from different locales throughout Georgia, including Gwinnett County, to meet broadcaster Wes Durham and several coaches during the spring. How did that go?
DR: It's something we tried that's brand new. We made five stops throughout the state - including Duluth, the 1818 Club (near the Arena at Gwinnett Center), Peachtree City, Cobb County and Macon. We really looked at where our season ticket holders live and ... gave Paul Johnson, (men's basketball coach) Paul Hewitt, (women's basketball coach) MaChelle Joseph and Wes and myself a good opportunity to connect with our fan base and let them know what's happening in our programs. And we got good feedback.
DF: Perhaps one of the most of the most vocal concerns from the "Jacket Nation" recently has been the performance of the highest-profile sports against their archrival, the University of Georgia. What can you say to those fans who are concerned about the big programs' ability to compete with their biggest rival?
DR: We are competing with one of the best athletic programs in the nation. They do a phenomenal job, no question. We can't outspend them no matter what because even if we sold out our 55,000-seat (football) stadium every game, they have a 92,000-seat stadium.
In talking to our coaches, they know they have to have their teams work hard and play smart and do everything they can. Each individual team and each individual student athlete understands the importance of (the rivalry with Georgia).
There's no magic bullet. ... Sure, it's frustrating, but ... it's very sport-specific. You have to be successful first and foremost in our conference if we want to be successful. But we also know the ability to beat our in-state rival enhances our national reputation, especially when that rival is one of the premier programs.