COLUMBIA, S.C. — While Dan Radakovich was steadily building the athletic department at Georgia Tech the past six years, he kept noticing the progress made two hours up the road by Atlantic Coast Conference rival Clemson.
Now, it's Radakovich in charge of Tiger athletics after he was hired to take over Clemson for retiring AD Terry Don Phillips.
"I watched from down I-85 as Clemson has assembled a great collection of coaches," Radakovich said. "I look forward to working with them."
He spent six years with the Yellow Jackets. He has also been an athletic administrator at South Carolina and LSU. Radakovich says he's grateful he was picked to administer the growing program, led by the defending ACC football champions.
"I always said it would take a special opportunity for me to leave Georgia Tech," said Radakovich, 54.
The ACC schools are about 120 miles, the distance it takes to drive from downtown Atlanta to South Carolina's foothills.
Clemson University President James F. Barker said the school looked at about 30 candidates, ranging from athletic administrators from BCS-level schools to private sector leaders.
"We set this bar very high," Barker said. "We wanted an individual who knew how to lead, who knew how to win, who knew how to raise revenue."
Barker said that person was Radakovich.
While at Georgia Tech, he oversaw 51 teams who advanced to either NCAA team tournament play or bowl games. That includes six sports — football, baseball, women's basketball, softball, women's tennis and golf — that have made the postseason every year he has been in Atlanta.
There are been 11 sports that have finished in the final top 25 of at least one major poll 27 times in those six years. That includes a national championship women's tennis program in 2007, just the second NCAA team title in Georgia Tech history. There have been 13 ACC championships celebrated in addition to nine regular season conference or division titles.
Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson said Radakovich also oversaw a significant expansion in athletic facilities.
"Under his leadership, our student-athletes have continued to excel, winning both conference and national championships. It has been a pleasure to work with him," Peterson said.
Georgia Tech said that senior associate AD Paul Griffin will head the department until the school finds a replacement.
Nothing everything went smoothly under Radakovich's watch. Georgia Tech was hit with NCAA sanctions in 2011 that cost the football team its 2009 ACC title, which the Yellow Jackets captured with a 39-34 victory over Clemson. Georgia Tech was also fined $100,000 and placed on four years probation.
NCAA investigators believed that Radakovich broke rules when he informed Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson of pending NCAA interviews with Yellow Jacket players. The NCAA said it was obvious the players were told how to answer the upcoming questions.
Barker said if he and Clemson's search committee weren't completely satisfied with Radakovich's actions, he would not have been hired. Radakovich called the NCAA inquiry a life-altering experience he'll never forget — nor repeat.
"Mistakes were made that I guarantee will not be made again," Radakovich said. "It's a life lesson that I have and I bring to the table having been in the trenches and never wanting to return."
Johnson, Georgia Tech's football coach, wished Radakovich well in the new position.
"Dan did a lot of good things for Georgia Tech athletics over the past six-and-a-half years," Johnson said. "I appreciate everything he has done for me and my family."
Radakovich is friends with Phillips, who spent the past 10 years leading the Tigers. When Radakovich learned of Phillips retirement, he reached out to him about the position.
Radakovich plans to spend the next two weeks or so closing Georgia Tech duties before taking over at Clemson fulltime by the end of November. He said he expected to attend all three November football home games at Memorial Stadium, against Maryland (Nov. 10), North Carolina State (Nov. 17) and against rival South Carolina — Radakovich's former employer — on Nov. 24.
Radakovich promised transparency for Clemson ticket buyers and boosters and suggested he'll use some sort of report card to let both groups know how they're money's being spent by the athletics department. He also planned to meet with all Tigers coaches about their programs as soon as he could.
"When you're in this seat," Radakovich said. "You want to make sure the student athletes have the best chance to be successful."