The toughest job in college athletics has nothing to do with coaching.
Sure, big-time Division I football and basketball coaches constantly face scrutiny. They live their lives' under the microscope.
Thanks to the Internet and the popularity of sports talk radio, there's no privacy or escape from the day-to-day pressures that are all but stapled to a head coach's job description the second he signs his million-dollar contract.
But that's nothing like the pressure a college athletic director must face. Today, in an era of big-time college athletics, fueled big dollars, the AD's job has become more high-profile than a university president.
An AD knows the hiring of the right football or basketball coach can make or break his career. Make the right hire, and the AD is everybody's hero. Make the wrong decision, and alumni stop writing checks, and buying tickets. Make influencial boosters mad and the poor AD's e-mail account will blow up with angry letters.
This year athletic director's around the country must have had some sleepless nights as they weighed some unpopular options.
Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich probably tops the list when it comes to losing sleep. Radakovich is forced to deal with some angry Yellow Jacket fans on a regular basis because of basketball coach Paul Hewitt's contract that rolls over every year. It was something already in place when Radakovich took the job.
Hewitt's contract would not be a problem if Tech was winning, but things have turned sour for the one-time national power. Sure they went 23-17 last year and returned to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence thanks to Derrick Favors who stayed one year before bolting to the NBA, but in Hewitt's time at Tech, and he has been there since the 2000 season, he's only 67-93 in ACC play. Getting rid of him would cost the school millions.
This year's disappointing football season can't make Radakovich happy either. Still, it's too early to pull the plug on Paul Johnson.
Yes, Tech suffered its first losing season, a 6-7 record, since 1996 , but Johnson did lead the team to the ACC title last season. He's 26-14 in three seaons.
Still the jury is still out on whether the run-happy triple-option will really work in the ACC.
It's a great offense at Navy and Georgia Southern, two places where Johnson consistently won, but he's just 16-8 (66 percent) in ACC play, not bad, but still not great.
For Johnson to make Tech fans really happy, his team needs to find a way to quit fumbling. The Yellow Jackets lost 20 of 37 fumbles this year, often in the red zone.
Tech also needs to find a passing game. Sure, the season-ending injury of quarterback Joshua Nesbitt against Virginia Tech hurt, but even the senior wasn't the best passer the game has ever seen.
A passing game would help give some balance to the running game that at times as looked unstoppable.
Tech needs to get better on defense too. The Jackets struggled trying to learn the new 3-4 scheme, and like the triple-option on offense, there is some talk about just how well this type of defense will work in college, or at least at Tech.
It takes big fast linebackers and Tech just didn't seem to have that at times this year.
More than anything else, Tech needs to find away to beat Georgia. Of course Tech fans shouldn't expect to beat the Bulldogs every year, but Georgia has been dominated in the series. A bowl victory every now and then would be nice too. Tech has lost six in a row, all three on Johnson's watch.
More than anything, Tech fans need to take a deep breath. There are plenty of things that need to be fixed, but Rome wasn't built in a day.
Radakovich no doubt knows there are some issues at Georgtia Tech. He knows what needs to be done and knows how much the Tech fan base wants to win.
Hopefully, he will get the problems fixed.
Tech fans will be watching and waiting.
(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton and Henry Da)