New UM AD talks about football stadium near campus Mario Cristobal

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NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 13: Clemson Tigers RW Dan Radakovich is seen prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the LSU Tigers and the Clemson Tigers on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans LA. (Photo by Todd Kirkland / Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

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New Miami University’s athletic director Dan Radakovich is ready to tackle many issues and explore massive challenges, including a football stadium closer to the Coral Gables campus.

Just hours after his announcement Thursday as UM’s vice president and athletics director, Radakovich, 63, the outgoing Clemson AD, spoke via Zoom with members of the Miami media.

Among the topics he covered: a home of Hurricanes football other than Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, where the Hurricanes and Dolphins play; what he needed as support to accept the job; his conversation Wednesday with new Miami football coach Mario Cristobal; and the UM basketball and baseball programs.

The football stadium has been a problem here for a while, is it a priority for you?

“I guess I’ve been very lucky in all the places I’ve worked, we’ve had a campus stadium or a stadium close to campus. The Hard Rock Stadium is simply fabulous. I mean it’s a wonderful place to play, but it’s a bit far from campus. If you have something nearby, the benefits to the entire campus community are almost immeasurable. So if this is something that can happen, we will pursue it until its logical conclusion. I know this has been tried before, but there are definitely things we can look at to try and create an opportunity if it exists for it to happen.

“I did not participate in an interview with [UM chief of staff] Rudy [Fernandez] and President Frenk and everybody and say, “This is exactly what we have to do and we have to make it happen” because it might not be happening for 100 reasons that you know better than I do right now. But it’s this quest to see if it could happen and how it could happen, I think it’s going to be a worthwhile endeavor.

In when taking the job, what did you need in terms of support or things that you wanted to put in place here to take it on?

“Regarding what I need, I just need to know that I can go to administration with resource needs that are going to be explained and understood in an ROI [return of investment] perspective [that] if we do that, this is what we think is some of the results that will come from it. And not all ROIs are dollars and cents. Many of them have to do with an enhanced student-athlete experience, a better recruiting opportunity to bring qualified and talented student-athletes to campus.

“And I think after a while people just need to have another set of eyes put in to come in and say, ‘Here are the things that maybe we need to consider doing. And I’m pretty sure you’re never going to get them all, but let’s prioritize these and see how we can move forward. I can’t tell you what they are today. I haven’t set foot on campus since a basketball game six years ago. But I know there are things we need to be able to do to support all of our programs and provide a better experience for our student-athletes.

During his Zoom call on Wednesday with Cristobal:

“It was pretty quick, but I like his enthusiasm. You can then take the enthusiasm and the way he wants to put it all together. It’s awesome. But you also have to look at its results. Both at the CRF as a head coach and at Oregon. These results were very, very good.

“Then I spoke to the coach [Nick] Saban about it. Nick was very direct and made an incredibly positive recommendation on something that is important to me, which is the work ethic. He said: ‘No one will surpass Mario Cristobal.’ He said, ‘It just won’t happen.’

“I had this conversation before I went on the Zoom call with Mario and it was very obvious that it was a very, very true statement. So he’s going to put his staff together, how it all comes together and how it changes culture. ”

What gives you assurance that some of the resources you requested will be delivered to you, when Unified Messaging has struggled over the past decade to keep pace with resources?

“You always have to take people at their word, especially the people who were so passionate about talking about what they wanted to do with the program. I have my MBA from the University of Miami, so I kind of looked a bit at the finances of the whole, and they’re solid. So I feel good about it. I also feel good about the desire and desire of the leaders of President Frenk to the members of the board of directors at the top administration to be able to take as they described it to me, this third vertical of the institution – teaching and research , health services and athletics. Athletics being the third vertical.

“And that’s important when you put it on the same shelf as these two amazing parts of the institutions. They had their infusion and they continue to create positive returns on investment for the institution in general. [Athletics] maybe not yet had all of that. Our responsibility is therefore to make sure, by understanding what the needs and the necessary resources are, that we can make another very profitable one, not only from the point of view of the dollar and cents, but from the point of view of reputation and the community spirit of the institution.

“I can’t wait to take on this challenge. I believe them and I want to be part of this growth.

What are your thoughts on basketball coach Jim Larranaga and baseball coach Gino DiMare and what are the righteous expectations for success in both sports?

“I know Coach Larranaga a bit. The Hurricanes beat Clemson on Saturday so that’s all I wanted to know about him. They were able to win this game.

“He’s built a very, very solid program when it comes to basketball. And I can’t wait for him and Katie Meier, from a basketball standpoint, to see where they need to go and how can we, from an administrative standpoint, help them there? As for expectations, it’s far too early. I don’t even have my Florida driver’s license yet. We will wait for the expectations at that time.

“Gino DiMare and the baseball program are legendary. One of our board members, Alex Rodriguez, the park is named after him and he is an incredible benefactor. Baseball is important at the University of Miami.

“I spoke to Jim and Gino [Thursday] afternoon just to introduce myself and say hello. I knew Gino Paul’s father [DiMare] for, my God, probably 40 years old and just consider him an amazing friend.

“Sometimes you take a cue from people you know. My current baseball coach, Monte Lee, really thinks about Gino’s world and how he works with the program. So, I’m going to take some time and make sure I get to know Gino and see what you need to be successful.

“Baseball has changed a lot from an intercollegiate perspective over the past 10 years. We have to see how the institution and how we can help, like some of the other private schools, has been able to do some really good things in baseball. Is there a piece of this missing? I don’t know because I don’t know the inner workings of this right now.

“The men’s basketball program and the baseball program are of critical importance to all of esprit de corps of our sports program. It is important to be successful because success also breeds success in our other programs.

Radakovich, among other topics he touched on, ended his conversation by saying, “This is going to be a lot of fun, guys.

“You have to have fun doing this business. And I know guys all love your job, and like [football] coach [Dabo] Swinney has said more times than I would like to remember, “The fun is winning. “So let’s make sure we have a lot of fun here.”

This story was originally published 9 December 2021 5.45 pm.

Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes’ soccer beats editor since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several national writing awards from APSE and has covered everything from Les Canes baseball and college football playoffs to major marathons and the Olympics.

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