SEC: Dan Radakovich

Despite reports Tuesday that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was Tennessee's top target to replace Mike Hamilton, Alleva has decided to stay at LSU.

And the search continues in Knoxville.

"This is not an opportunity that I pursued," Alleva said in a statement released by LSU. "And Tennessee is a wonderful place, but in the end I felt that Chancellor [Michael] Martin has a great vision for LSU. He and the Board of Supervisors ... showed tremendous support for me to stay at LSU. Baton Rouge is my home, and I want to be part of the community for a long time to come. There is more work to be done, and my heart bleeds purple and gold. I look forward to working every day to make LSU a better place for the best student-athletes, coaches and fans in America."

Alleva is not only staying at LSU but he's going to get a raise in the process. Well played, sir.

While he didn't provide details about Alleva's future raise, Martin said a new contract would be drawn up and presented at a future board of supervisors meeting.

"It was brought to my attention that the University of Tennessee was interested in Joe becoming their athletic director, and often good people -- both in academics and athletics -- attract interest from other institutions," Martin said. "We have been pleased with Joe's performance so, in concert with the leadership of the Board of Supervisors, we determined it was in the best interests of the university to make him a sufficiently fair offer. We are happy that he has chosen to keep Baton Rouge as his home."

It's back to the drawing board for Tennessee, even though Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek made it clear that he wanted to hire a new AD before the start of the football season in September.

Earlier this month, it appeared as though Tennessee was ready to hire Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich. That was until news broke about Georgia Tech's NCAA violations and the Yellow Jackets being stripped of their 2009 ACC championship and going on NCAA probation.

Talk about a major goof by Tennessee's search committee.

In the meantime, interim athletic director Joan Cronan will continue to run the athletic department.
Scratch Georgia Tech’s Dan Radakovich from Tennessee’s list for a new athletic director.

Georgia Tech’s recent NCAA troubles and the NCAA’s assertion that Georgia Tech officials attempted to “manipulate the information surrounding potential violations” makes Radakovich untouchable for a school that appeared before the Committee on Infractions just last month for major violations in both football and men’s basketball.

Tennessee should find out sometime next month what sanctions it will face for violations that occurred on the watch of former athletic director Mike Hamilton, who stepped down in June.

[+] EnlargeDan Radakovich
AP Photo/John BazemoreGeorgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich had been a front-runner to take the same job at Tennessee.
In the meantime, Tennessee is left to pick up the pieces now that Radakovich is out.

What’s most troublesome for Tennessee supporters is that the university forked out six figures to the Parker Executive Search firm to help identify candidates, gather information … and conduct background checks.

If that’s the case, how does a guy like Radakovich emerge as the front-runner when his own shop is about to get hit with NCAA penalties?

Given what Tennessee has gone through with the NCAA over the past year or so, the first directive Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek gives to the Parker search firm is to make sure that any and all serious candidates don’t have even a trace of NCAA baggage.

Yet, until the news broke Thursday that Georgia Tech was being stripped of its 2009 ACC championship and going on NCAA probation, the feeling of many in and around the Tennessee athletic department was that Radakovich was clearly the guy to beat in the Vols’ search for a new athletic director.

Again, good thing they forked over all that money to the Parker search firm, which has collected nearly $300,000 of Tennessee’s money when you throw in the searches that led to the hiring of football coach Derek Dooley and basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

And one more thing: Who is Cheek listening to?

Better yet, is he purposely trying to botch this one even worse than he did the Bruce Pearl situation?

Cheek openly supported Pearl after the former basketball coach admitted to lying to the NCAA and was adamant that Pearl was going to be the Vols’ coach. Cheek reiterated that support even after the SEC suspended Pearl for eight games. And then after allowing the whole thing to fester for a season and Tennessee to take a public relations bloodbath nationally, Cheek then decided it was time to pull the plug on Pearl.

Needless to say, his handling of the matter didn’t exactly inspire confidence among the Big Orange Nation.

He faces an even more important decision in this next hire, because if Tennessee football doesn’t get back to playing for and winning championships -- and doing it the right way -- Cheek might be the next one Tennessee is searching to replace.

No word yet on whether a search firm would be necessary.

As for the athletic director candidates remaining on Tennessee’s board, Tulsa’s Bubba Cunningham, Buffalo’s Warde Manuel and Cincinnati’s Mike Thomas appear to be at the top of the list.

From the day Hamilton stepped down, Cheek’s initiative was to attract an established athletic director from a bigger school, and he assured key people it would be somebody with a strong football background.

Tennessee took its shot at several so-called bigger names, but those candidates weren’t interested in making the move. It’s no secret that righting the Vols' ship is going to be a major undertaking for anybody.

Part of Tennessee’s problem in this whole search might be that it hasn’t looked closely enough within the family.

Senior associate athletic director David Blackburn is a candidate. Where he is in the pecking order at this point is anybody’s guess.

But if Cheek genuinely wants to get this one right, Blackburn ought to be at the very top.

He’s a Tennessee guy. He understands what’s important to the Tennessee people. He’s willing to fight for Tennessee, and he’s also willing to fight against those (coaches, boosters, anybody) who put Tennessee at risk.

It was Blackburn who saved Tennessee’s football program from a failure to monitor charge in the whole Lane Kiffin-NCAA mess. For that matter, Blackburn saved Tennessee football from much worse charges because of his diligence, his integrity and his willingness to stand up to people.

Simply, he’s the right fit at Tennessee, the kind of person and the kind of administrator the Vols’ athletic department desperately needs.

And it doesn’t take a $100,000 search firm to figure that out.

SPONSORED HEADLINES