Clemson’s home football opener Aug. 31 against Georgia will be yet another example of how important Tiger athletics are to the local economy, according to the man charged with overseeing those efforts.
“Clemson will be the center of the college football universe Aug. 31 and that’s a great thing,” athletic director Dan Radakovich told members of the Anderson Chamber of Commerce at its Toast ‘n Topics event on Friday . He added that ESPN’s signature program, “GameDay,” is likely to broadcast from Memorial Stadium before the Tigers and Bulldogs renew their gridiron rivalry for the first time in several years.
Radakovich said Tiger sports generate $250 million in economic activity every year in the Upstate, according to studies. He acknowledged, however, that the era of huge television deals for top-tier conferences is shifting the money away from Memorial Stadium and surrounding environs as more fans opt to watch games at home.
“We are a significant economic engine and we recognize that,” said Radakovich, who assumed his current post in January after five years in the same capacity at Georgia Tech. “We want to make sure we continue to get people coming to our games and make sure that experience people have is a phenomenal experience.”
Radakovich expects the Atlantic Coast Conference to follow the lead of the Southeastern Conference, which has commissioned an extensive marketing study to look at ways to keep arenas and stadiums filled on game days. Both conferences have seen their football crowds slowly dwindle over the last decade and sellouts get harder to come by.
That initiative would dovetail into his approach of preparing for the near future, rather than merely reacting to current issues facing his department.
Case in point: Vickery Hall, the athletic housing that opened in 1990 and served for years as a model for other major universities wishing to enhance the campus learning and training experiences for student-athletes. Radakovich wants to build an updated complex as part of a university push to remake the center of the campus over the next decade.
“Vickery Hall works today, but in five years that opportunity will be off the books,” he said. “We would probably be doing that a few years too early, but I’d rather be a few years too early than a few years too late.”
The future of Littlejohn Coliseum is also on Radakovich’s mind. Basketball program boosters have complained that Littlejohn lacks the amenities to attract to attract the top-level recruits flocking to other ACC schools. The athletic director said he is looking at two options — renovate Littlejohn for the basketball program, or build a newer facility and repurpose Littlejohn as a recreation center too keep off-campus students on campus more often.
“Students are telling the institution that they need more (recreation),” said Radakovich, who declined to set a timetable for a decision about Littlejohn.