First of all, it’s good to be back. So did I miss anything?
Quite a bit, as it turns out.
SEC Media Days are just nine days away and by my count it will take us at least that long to catch up on everything that happened while I was away. So I’ve decided to start with the very hottest topic and then we’ll work through the rest as the week goes on.
After coming back from vacation to cover conference expansion, it was tempting to come back again when the Damon Evans incident happened. But I had promised Mrs. College Football I would get away from the craziness for a little while before jumping back into the fray. And a promise is a promise.
So now vacation is over. It’s time to jump back into the pool and there is no better place to start than with the Damon Evans story. This is strictly one man’s opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree.
1. Damon Evans was a rising star: The personal tragedy of Damon Evans’ demise as Georgia’s athletics director–how this impacts his family–is none of our business. We can only wish him the best in that regard.
But the public and professional tragedy of this whole episode is to see such talent and potential go to waste. Everybody in our business knew that Evans was a rising star. I saw him as the commissioner of a BCS conference some day–perhaps even the SEC. He was an outstanding athletics director for Georgia. I hope the people quoted in Tim Tucker’s Sunday story are right and that Damon will get a chance to rebuild his career.
2. Michael Adams showed extraordinary leadership: I have certainly had my differences with Dr. Michael Adams, the President of the University of Georgia. But in this case Dr. Adams took exactly the right tone–compassionate but stern–in obtaining the resignation of Damon Evans. Evans was Adams’ hand-picked successor to replace Vince Dooley in 2004. That was certainly a controversial move and Evans knew he owed his career to the Georgia president. The action by Evans had to make Adams feel angry and betrayed.
But give credit where credit is due. Adams understood the gravity of the situation and acted swiftly. It had to be done and Adams answered the bell to protect the best interests of the University–which is his No. 1 job.
3. Had the incident been limited to the DUI, it would have been possible to salvage Evans’ job. Friends disagree with me on this but if the charges had not gone beyond the DUI, as bad as that is, I believe Evans could have gone through alcohol counseling, community service and found a way to rehabilitate his image. Yes, there would have been a lot of critics, given Evans’ video presentation against drinking and driving that appeared before home games in Athens. It would have been very difficult, but it could have been done.
But once the police report was made public, the damning details struck at the heart of Evans’ judgement and made it impossible for him to survive professionally. The details about the woman in the car and her clothing were certaintly titillating to the public. But I believe Evans sealed his fate when he began a sentence to a Georgia State Trooper with: “I’m not trying to bribe you but…..”
You just can’t do that.
4. This will not impact Mark Richt. Nor should it: Unless Georgia hires Darth Vader as its new athletics director, this episode does not affect the head football coach at the University of Georgia.
First of all, and I guess we’ll have to say this once a week until certain people get it, Richt is not on any kind of hot seat and will not be on any kind of hot seat (we’ll talk about alcohol-related arrests and suspension of the two Georgia players on Tuesday). The man has won 90 games and two SEC championships in nine seasons. And none of that changes because somebody new is going to occupy the corner office on the fourth floor of the Butts-Mehre building.
In fact, the new athletic director at Georgia is going to thank his lucky stars that he inherits a football coach like Mark Richt. He wins 10 games a year. He keeps you competitive in the toughest conference in America. He doesn’t bring the NCAA watchdogs sniffing around. And he will never, EVER, embarrass you.
Now, was Georgia a good football team last season? Nope.
Does Mark Richt’s team need to show some improvement this season so that the next offseason is more fun and less stressful? Yep.
But there are quality of life seasons and career survival seasons. The 2010 is a quality of life season for Richt at Georgia regardless of who sits in the athletics directors’ chair.
5. I have two words about the new Georgia athletics director: Greg McGarity. When Dr. Adams was describing the kind of person he wanted as the new athletics director at Georgia, he might as well have been reading off McGarity’s resume.
First of all, let’s start with competence. McGarity has been at Florida since 1992 as the No. 2 guy behind Jeremy Foley, one of the very best in the business. Florida has been one of the top overall athletic departments in the country for a long time and McGarity has played a big part of that. For 17 consecutive years Florida has finished seventh or better in the Director’s Cup, which goes to the nation’s best athletic department. This season Florida finished No. 2 behind Stanford.
McGarity is an Athens native who played tennis for Coach Dan Magill at Georgia. He worked in the UGA athletic department in several capacities under Vince Dooley before leaving for Florida. He is as rock solid as they come.
Two things should not factor into the decision on whether or not McGarity is the right person to lead Georgia’s athletic department: The fact that he’s worked at Florida for 19 years and the fact that he once worked for Dooley at Georgia.
Some don’t want to hire Florida’s No. 2 guy under any circumstances. Others believe that Adams will not hire someone with ties to Dooley given the past conflict between the two men.
Both points of view represent small thinking. This is about competence and finding somebody who will also unify the Georgia people after a difficult time in its history. Greg McGarity is ready. It’s time to bring him home.
Please follow me on Twitter at: