Personally knowing one of the people involved in the AD search, you might be surprised by whomever UTK hires? This is going to be done behind closed doors and I wouldn't be surprised if the man hired has even has had his name thrown out there yet.
For the past few weeks, Tennessee’s search for a new athletic director has operated in stealth mode. Names have been batted about, but no solid leads have connected UT to a specific Candidate X.
The closest anyone’s come to being viewed as a “leader” for the job is Dan Radakovich of Georgia Tech. Radakovich’s name has been leaked by a dozen different Tennessee sources to a dozen different media members making his the only name that’s appeared on just about every publicized list of candidates.
Some — including this site — have been told that he is the leader for the job. But maybe we should make that “he was the leader for the job.”
Georgia Tech was hit with four years probation yesterday, stripped of an ACC championship in football, and — for the most part — given a set of survivable penalties following an NCAA investigation into the school’s football and basketball programs. Tech was not hit with scholarship cuts or postseason bans.
Considering Tennessee’s recent NCAA issues — issues that in part led to previous athletic director Mike Hamilton’s resignation — it’s hard to imagine Vol officials wanting to grab someone from another program that has also been recently smacked by the NCAA. And remember, UT is still waiting on its own punishments from the governing body. Hiring someone with a questionable background could conceivably lead the NCAA to strengthen the punishments it will levy against the Volunteers.
That’s a hit to Radakovich’s candidacy, no doubt. But what makes things worse for Tech’s AD is the fact that the NCAA specifically stated that Tech officials attempted “to manipulate the information surrounding potential violations” and “hindered efforts to get to the truth.”
Radakovich has said that he did not mean to interfere with the NCAA’s investigation, but he did admit to telling head coach Paul Johnson that an investigation was about to be conducted into his football program. This after the NCAA specifically told him not to do so. When the NCAA arrived on campus, folks in the Tech football program had prepared their answers. NCAA officials obviously weren’t thrilled with that one.
So could Tennessee hire Radakovich — who has worked at LSU, South Carolina and Miami — now? Only if they’ve got some serious guts.
In an interesting sidenote, UT has been working with — and paying — Parker Executive Search to help find candidates for its opening. Part of the search firm’s job is to do recon work on potential hires. If Tennessee really had Radakovich high on its list, did Parker not tell the school what was going on at Tech? Did they not know what was going on at Tech? When you toss in the fact that Parker is based in Atlanta it doesn’t do wonders for the firm’s credibility if it didn’t know or didn’t inform UT officials of the troubles headed in the direction of Georgia Tech and Radakovich.
So where will Tennessee head next? Cincinnati athletic director Mike Thomas has previously been mentioned as a possibility (along with a dozen others). Ironically, the Bearcats’ AD has twice won the Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletics Director Award for his work at Akron and then at Cincinnati.
Unless there’s a surprise candidate somewhere out there, Thomas would appear at this point to be the Vols’ best bet of landing a proven BCS-level athletic director.