It was the mad scene in LSU’s hotel lobby at the Marriott on Canal Street that Dan Radakovich remembers most from the Tigers’ trip to New Orleans for the 2004 Sugar Bowl to play Oklahoma for the BCS national title.
“The excitement and energy and enthusiasm was something I hadn’t seen up to that point in my administrative career,” Radakovich said Saturday, amid the mad scene of CFP media day at the Xavier Convocation Center.
Sixteen years later, LSU is back here playing for the CFP national championship, staying at that same frenzied hotel on Canal Street.
But Radakovich? Well, he’s down the street at the Hilton Riverside. That’s Clemson’s headquarters, and that’s where he belongs as those Tigers’ athletic director.
It’s been a run of football success for Clemson and Radakovich, who took over in December 2012 just before his school upset LSU 25-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
They used to call it “channel surfing.”
“It’s that springboard that has moved us forward,” said Radakovich, who from 2001-06 was senior associate athletic director at LSU before becoming AD at Georgia Tech (2006-12). “That’s something that created an incredible belief in the program, and in the recruits that would come over the next 3-4 years that would be the basis for that 2016 championship. So a lot goes back to that night in Atlanta against the LSU Tigers.”
Back then, Clemson was the upstart program trying to recapture the glory of its lone national championship in 1981. Now Clemson is the program on top, trying to join Alabama, Nebraska and Notre Dame as the only programs to capture three national titles in a four-year span in the Associated Press poll era (since 1936).
The bright lights shine down on Trevor Lawrence.
Being able to recruit players nationally, players like running back Travis Etienne from Jennings and Butkus Award-winning linebacker Isaiah Simmons from Kansas, has been a result of Clemson’s success — and spurred more of it.
”We have players this recruiting class coming from California,” Radakovich said. “We’ve moved away from that regional location. That’s still our roots, but we’re able to go into Texas and Florida and Louisiana and look for some really quality players.”
In addition to his duties at Clemson, Radakovich served the first four years on the College Football Playoff selection committee (2014-17).
He acknowledged the drumbeat for expanding the four-team playoff, and said that was something the folks who manage the CFP would look into without getting into specifics.
But he stressed the logistics of expanding from four teams had its issues.
“It’s real easy to sit down at a desk and map out an eight-team playoff,” he said. “But it can’t be the current way we do things. Do you lose a game and go back to an 11-game schedule? Do you monetize the spring game? I don’t think this is a one, sit down, ‘OK, this is how we’re going to change this.’ There’s a lot of little pieces that can lead up to a really healthy alternative if that’s where they want to go.”