Being Clemson’s New AD Is A Dream Come True For Neff

Taking a page from Dabo Swinney’s playbook, Clemson President Jim Clements hired from within to replace Dan Radakovich as the school’s new director of athletics.

Clemson University’s Board of Trustees officially hired Graham Neff as the Tigers’ new athletic director on Thursday. Neff had served as the university’s acting athletic director since Dec. 10, when Radakovich officially left Clemson for the same job at Miami.

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Swinney recently promoted from within to replace Brent Venables as defensive coordinator and Tony Elliott as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. Venables and Elliott both took head coaching jobs at Oklahoma and Virginia, recently.

Senior defensive analyst Wesley Goodwin was promoted to replace Venables as linebacker’s coach and defensive coordinator, while quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter was promoted to offensive coordinator. Longtime offensive analyst Kyle Richardson was promoted to replace Elliott as the new tight ends coach, while also serving as the passing game coordinator.

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“It has been our calling card in a number of our athletic profiles, shoot the university,” Neff said. “That is what Clemson does, and it is such a natural fit. You wrap your arms around Clemson and conversely.”

Graham has worked the last nine years at Clemson under Radakovich’s guidance, including as chief financial officer and director of capital projects prior to his most recent role as deputy director of athletics. Neff has helped oversee the build and financing of more than $200 million in facility improvements, aided in the continued development of IPTAY, and served as a sport administrator for football and men’s basketball.

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“Our department of athletics has a long-standing tradition of success that continues today, most recently with another national championship for our men’s soccer team, and a deep commitment to student-athlete development. Graham Neff has played an integral role every step of the way,” said Clements in a release from the athletic department. “Graham is a highly sought-after athletics administrator, a brilliant and selfless leader, and we’re thrilled about his vision for Clemson athletics.”

During Neff’s time at Clemson, the football program has won two national championships, while the men’s basketball program made a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 run in 2018. Academically, Clemson’s graduation success rate has been above 91 percent for seven consecutive years, and student-athlete total GPA has been above 3.0 for nine straight semesters.

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Like others around Clemson, Neff has had many opportunities to leave Clemson over the last several years, but the timing was not right, or it was not the right fit.


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“From a professional standpoint, I have always, or certainly recently had the mindset and maybe the approach of being aspirational, but it was not urgent. So, I certainly aspired professionally for a director of athletics role, but just given the embrace of Clemson and to work with Dan, our staff and our leadership, we have just not had that urgency, sort of speak, because of the love of the current condition.”

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Neff admits the last three weeks have been better-sweet for him and his family. But he is certainly glad that he and his family are staying at Clemson.

“I have certainly had some (other offers) and have entertained some of them, but it has always been one of those, ‘It is in your bones and in your heart,’ that I don’t think anyone of those rose to the urgency or the passion to pursue in earnest that maybe these opportunities would require and have some level of pursuit.

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“It is the ‘trust your gut’ notion and that has just always been my gut when I have had conversations.”

Before Clemson, Neff served two-plus years in several senior administrative roles at Middle Tennessee State Athletics, with emphasis in finance, facilities, and external operations. He began his career in college athletics as a student manager for the men’s basketball program at Georgia Tech, which advanced to a Final Four in 2004.

Neff then went to work in the Financial Advisory Services group at Deloitte and Touche from 2006-08, prior to returning to a finance and ticketing role at the Georgia Tech Athletic Association.

Neff has worked within college athletics for more than 15 years, after earning a civil engineering degree and an MBA from Georgia Tech.

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Radakovich then brought Neff to Clemson in 2013, with the goal to mentor him into becoming a future athletic director. As for being Clemson’s athletic director, that was not necessarily the plan, but it was something Neff hoped for.

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“There was always a hope of an opportunity here without a timeline. So, I always balanced external opportunities with the great condition of now and maybe the path ahead,” he said. “So, for it to come to fruition, now, was unexpected from a timing standpoint. Certainly, excited from the last couple of weeks for it to come to fruition and it has certainly been a guide on how I balanced those external opportunities.”

--Clemson Athletics Contributed to this story

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