Judging by almost any criteria one might choose, Dan Radakovich looks to be both well-qualified and well-suited to be successful as Clemson's new athletic director.
He's worked his way up the ladder as an assistant and associate AD, from Long Beach State to South Carolina to LSU and finally to Georgia Tech. He is respected nationally as an outstanding fundraiser with strong communication skills. He knows the ins and outs of the ACC, and he's demonstrated a commitment to excellence in football, basketball and the Olympic sports.
He inherits an athletics program with a proud heritage and strong financial footing - one that plays in a league that has come through a period of volatility and uncertainty in better shape than most people would have imagined possible even a few months ago. Clemson's football program is operating at a high level on multiple fronts, including recruiting, on-field competitiveness, academics and compliance. Basketball is solid and striving for an unprecedented level of consistency, and the Tigers' Olympic sports have plenty of high points to build upon. Clemson has already invested heavily in facilities - a process which is ongoing and far-reaching.
There is, it seems, just one caveat to Radakovich being the perfect fit to replace Terry Don Phillips as Clemson's AD.
He comes to Clemson with NCAA baggage.
Just a year ago, Georgia Tech was charged with NCAA violations and forced to forfeit the final three games of its 2009 football season, including vacating its ACC Championship Game victory over Clemson, for using an ineligible player.
The football violations, in themselves, would hardly have warranted the four-year probationary period imposed by the NCAA. Except that Radakovich, in his position as athletic director, committed what - to the NCAA - is a nearly an unpardonable sin: failure to cooperate.
Directed by the NCAA not to tell anyone on his staff of the organization's intention to interview two Georgia Tech football players in connection with the alleged violations, Radakovich instead informed football coach Paul Johnson, who, in turn, notified the players. The failure to cooperate, according to reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, came to light when the two players delivered what seemed to be rehearsed and coordinated testimony about accepting gifts of clothing from a former Georgia Tech player.
When he arrived at Clemson's McFadden Building team room on Monday, Radakovich, to his credit, didn't leave his baggage by the door.
When asked about the incident, Radakovich stated forthrightly that mistakes were made, and said he had learned hard lessons from those mistakes that will make him a better athletic administrator.
Radakovich described the experience as "life altering."
“There were great lessons learned," he said Monday. "There were mistakes made that won’t be made again. I bring to the table having gone through the trenches and I never want to return.”
Clemson president James Barker said he read the NCAA's report repeatedly and that he asked Radakovich hard questions during the interview process. Had he and the search committee not been completely satisfied with Radakovich's answers, "we wouldn't be here today," Barker said.
At Clemson, there is no question of making mountains out of molehills when it comes to NCAA infractions.
The Tiger athletic department spent much of two decades under NCAA scrutiny, from the time investigators came to town in the mid-70s to probe violations in the Clemson men's basketball program until the late 80s, when the NCAA investigated football-related allegations for the second time in the decade. In between, Clemson spent multiple seasons on probation and also suffered through an excruciating scandal involving both its men's and women's track coaches, sparked by the death of a cross country runner who had been supplied with illegally-obtained prescription drugs.
Phillips and his predecessors have worked long and hard to rid Clemson of its image as an NCAA outlaw.
Compliance, down to dotting every 'i 'and crossing every 't,' has become almost an obsession.
As Dabo Swinney said last week, "We're doing things the right way, with integrity, and that's what Terry Don is all about."
Dan Radakovich was still a Pennsylvania teenager when a former University of Virginia football coach stood in the parking lot at Greensboro Coliseum before an ACC men's basketball tournament game, laughing and joking about Clemson's NCAA travails and handing out bumper stickers saying 'Tates' Tigers: The Best That Money Can Buy.'
At Clemson, these days and for a long time now, compliance with NCAA rules has been no laughing matter.
There is every indication that both President Barker and Radakovich understand, and that's good news for Clemson as the new era begins.