The new College Football Championship needs to appoint a selection committee of top leaders, with impeccable judgment and integrity, and rumored appointment Condi Rice fits that bill. In contrast, current rumored candidate Clemson AD Dan Radakovich is the wrong person for the job.
The fact that Radakovich was Georgia Tech’s Athletics Director in 2011 when the NCAA found GT guilty of major violations should not, by itself, necessarily disqualify him from serving on this prestigious selection committee.
But the NCAA Committee on Infraction’s GT decision is one of a very tiny number of such “major violation” decisions where the athletic director (Radakovich) was a major violator. Most major violation cases involve players or coaches who have somehow broken the rules. In contrast, the Georgia Tech major violation directly arises from illegal actions taken by Radakovich while he led the school’s actions during the investigative stage.
First, look back at the report by Attorney Ken Wainstein concerning the “prudential concerns” violations he found, upon investigation (at the request of NCAA Head Emmert) of NCAA staffer conduct in the UMiami case. Wainstein found that the hiring of outside counsel by the staffer violated “prudential concerns.” But the staffer had long since (before Wainstein’s review) been fired by the NCAA, not because he violated “prudential concerns”, but because of a much more egregious and fundamental “process” violation: his action directly and intentionally contradicted a specific order from his superior that he not hire outside counsel. “Disobeying” an explicit order led to immediate firing. That staffer was insubordinate.
The NCAA GT decision shows that Radakovich was similarly insubordinate to his superior at the NCAA by intentionally disobeying an explicit order from the NCAA investigator about how Radakovich should handle confidential information. And Radakovich’s insubordination had a direct impact upon a subsequent strange and 180-degree “change of story” by one of the players. Here are the brief facts:
In November 2009, the NCAA contacted a GT Compliance officer with information that an “agent” had been spotted somewhere in the GT environs, and that several GT football players may have received free athletic clothing from that agent or one of his runners. The NCAA staffer explicitly told the GT Compliance officer that this information about agent actions could be revealed only to the GT President and AD Radakovich — and no one else.
Incredibly, only ten days later, AD Radokovich, Head Football Coach Johnson, the GT Compliance Office and the football player in question all sat in one room for a meeting. And they spoke in detail about the fact that the NCAA had information that an agent had been present and had provided free clothing to the athlete in question.
The result of this meeting?: the player in question reversed his prior admission that he’d received the clothing. That is, prior to the meeting he was forced to attend with the AD, Coach and Compliance chiefs at GT, that player had admitted that he’d gotten free clothing. After the meeting, he denied that fact.
Radakovich and the compliance officer admit that they both knew that they knew they had had a duty to keep the information confidential. Instead (to use the NCAA’s words) they “tainted” and “hindered” the NCAA investigation.
Pre-Emptive Meeting: The NCAA COI decision (which was later appealed, to no avail, by GT and Radakovich) made much of this “pre-emptive” meeting which Radakovich and Johnson had with the player — after having been explicitly told that the information should be kept completely confidential — and how that prevented the NCAA from being able to make any final determination as to whether the clothing was “illegally” gotten from an agent or his runner.
Hindered the Committee: The COI found that “the staff members provided, before the NCAA could conduct their interview, information about what would be discussed in the interview,”[and that]“these actions impeded the enforcement staff investigations and hindered the committee in getting to the truth in this case. Otherwise, this case, as it pertains to the football program, would have been limited to impermissible benefits and preferential treatment violations.“
Let’s stop and think about this meeting, in a way that someone at the NCAA must have seen it. These are probably the two most powerful Athletics figures at GT –the AD and football coach (along with the compliance head) – in a room with the young player. Think he’s scared? Think he knows what’s expected of him? — maybe to shade the truth? And what of the thoughts running through the head of compliance?: he had clearly told Radakovich that the NCAA had given explicit instructions not to pass on the information. Yet AD Rasdokovich nonetheless either set up the meeting, and/or chaired it in person. The NCAA recognized, implicitly, when finding that the investigation had been “hindered” and “tainted”, that the AD probably didn’t have to say a word, since solely the presence of all the biggest of GT Athletics “big shots” was likely enough to intimidate the player. The circumstances suggest that Radakovich may have suborned untruthful testimony by the player.
So it’s not simply that AD Radakovich engaged in deliberate, knowing conduct which directly contravened not just several NCAA bylaws, including Bylaw 10.1. It’s more profound than that: Radakovich countermanded (just like that NCAA staffer on the UMiami case who was fired for insubordination) an explicit, case-specific order by the NCAA.
It’s worth stopping here. The NCAA didn’t hesitate to consider all the circumstances (using “circumstantial evidence”) to explicitly find (by a “close call”) that in this case the Player “told the truth” in his “first” version, but not in his “second” (i.e., post-meeting) version.
But the NCAA refused to make a parallel assessment of the circumstances to thoroughly evaluate the ethics of Radakovich’s actions, even though those circumstances suggest, more probably than not, that Radakovich engaged in intentional acts meant to subvert the effectiveness of an entire ongoing NCAA investigation, in circumstances where he had every motive to engage in such illicit behavior in order to have GT avoid sanctions. But this “cupcake”deference to ADs and Coaches (consistent with my notion that, in the minds of any COI, “ADs and Coaches never lie — players do”) is not uncommon, where the NCAA “members” are not the players, but the coaches and ADs.
The COI cited GT for a lack of cooperation during the investigation and a failure to meet the conditions and obligations of membership (among other things.) GT was given four years’ probation, a $100,000 fine, and vacation of the 2009 ACC title game. They also imposed upon Georgia Tech’s athletics operation an order of “Public reprimand and censure.”
Finally, and as is common, the COI reflexively ordered all kinds of rules “education”, including the requirement that Radakovich attend a mandatory NCAA rules education seminar in 2012 (even though there was no evidence that Radakovich’s intentional acts were the result of any “misunderstanding” of the rules): ” The director of athletics, the head football coach, the compliance director and the academic advisor shall attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2012.”
Days after the COI decision, Radakovich took a “we-did-nothing-wrong” stance.
“There were a number of people in that room today who watched that game on television like millions of others. The ones who were there certainly were disappointed, but the lesson moving forward is how the actions of a few can affect many. That’s something coach Johnson really stressed to that group. We need to utilize this not only with our football team and our men’s basketball team, but also all of our teams as a learning experience moving forward and how important it is to when you’re a part of a team, to put that team ahead of anything that comes your way and be up front and open with our compliance process.”
Other comments, post-decision, by Radakovich:
1. “We cooperated fully during process.” (Compare this to the “pre-emptive meeting”, “tainted” evidence, or “hindered” [access] to the truth” findings by the NCAA.)
2. “We don’t agree with the report and its findings.”
3. “Georgia Tech should not be placed in a position where its integrity is challenged.”
4. “We disagree but we will move forward.”
Contrary to these assertions, there are many indications that Radakovich’s entire department was, in 2011, completely out of control. The COI found, as just one example, “The former general counsel was not the only person… who conveyed a combative attitude toward the investigation. The [NCAA Investigator] …. needed supervisory support at some interviews because of the attitude of the institution’s representation.” In addition, the Head Basketball Coach was fired prior to the NCAA decision, and violations in both football and basketball operations were addressed in the COI decision.
Radakovich is, apparently, a man comfortable in his own sin. But his behavior in these events, as a center-stage actor in a major violation involving subversion of the process which all members schools have agreed to, should make anyone very uncomfortable about the prospect of having him involved in any highly sensitive, nationally-oriented selection process. In fact, the clearly unethical behavior exhibited by Radakovich, along with similar major ethical breaches recently by Jim Tressel (fraud) and Jo Pa (concealment of evidence), are three major reasons why the entire Self-Reporting obligation which is the linchpin of the NCAA framework must now be presumed broken.
More to the point, if Radokovich will, as he did at GT, intentionally breach confidences he had a clear professional duty to maintain, should he be entrusted with highly confidential, if not publicly volatile information developed or discussed by the selection committee? If he will engage in efforts to illicitly “taint” or “hinder” process or evidence, is he suitable for a selection committee which must be beyond reproach? Isn’t the mere presence of this “taint” from the GT decision enough to disqualify him from consideration for the selection committee?
Finally, Radakovich intentionally “blew up” the team to which he had a higher duty: a “team” which should’ve been formed, cooperatively with the NCAA, and which should have included Radakovich, to investigate any GT violations. Instead, he subverted that team, apparently for his own interest. And he still apparently fails to comprehend the nature of gravity of his violation. Radakovich: a team player?