Michael Adams arrived at the University of Georgia at the same time I did, in the fall of 1997. I left four years later. At that time, no one would have guessed he’d still be there in 2012, much less 2013. He was always rumored to have other ambitions, from moving on to other universities to heading the NCAA, or even seeking political office. But it will be June of next year, Adams announced yesterday, when he retires from the job.
At just shy of 16 years, his tenure will have been longer than all but three UGA presidents in the 20th century. And a lengthy tenure often makes for a number of possible ways for a person to be remembered. Oh, how that will be the case with Michael Adams.
Adams presided over UGA during a time of marked improvement in both its students’ credentials and its facilities. The HOPE scholarship and metro Atlanta’s population boom certainly contributed to the former. But Adams capitalized on those advantages in many ways, including the expansion of merit scholarships and study-abroad opportunities, to ensure highly qualified Georgia grads stayed in-state. Even here, though, there is room for criticism: One of the controversies of his tenure was the purchase of a campus in Costa Rica.
There was a construction boom, too: About a year ago, after speaking on campus, I was taken on a driving tour of all the new buildings since I graduated in 2001. I was stunned by the growth and renovations. The physical transformation of the campus is impressive.
What will be Michael Adams' legacy at UGA?
Total Voters: 160
I hear some complaints that the development of the faculty under Adams hasn’t kept pace with that of students. But UGA has carved out certain areas of comparative advantage, and its development of strengths in the biosciences, in particular, will be a key to both its and the state’s future. Here again, however, there is controversy: Some people felt it was redundant and too costly for UGA to begin offering advanced degrees in engineering, and some in Augusta felt UGA was trampling on the turf of the state’s medical college by adding a program to train doctors.
We can’t summarize his tenure, though, without mentioning athletics. Adams famously feuded with longtime athletics director Vince Dooley, and eventually refused to extend the contract of the man who is the school’s winningest football coach. He reportedly went over Dooley’s head to fire football coach Jim Donnan and twisted Dooley’s arm to hire basketball coach Jim Harrick — who had success on the court but embarrassed the school badly off it. (UGA’s detractors will never tire of mocking the “How many points is a 3-point shot worth?” question on an “exam” given by Harrick’s son in an actual UGA class.) More recently, Adams has been a leading proponent of creating a playoff for major college football.
So, here’s this week’s Poll Position: What will be Michael Adams’ legacy at UGA? The categories in the nearby poll are fairly broad, so expound on your answer in the comments thread below.
– By Kyle Wingfield