We make jokes, but there’s nothing funny about a DUI. There’s especially nothing funny when the man arrested is, by job definition, a leader of young people, and when some of those young people have had alcohol-related issues of their own.
Damon Evans warrants the same legal protection as everyone else: He’s innocent until proven guilty. But men in positions of leadership are held to a standard above and beyond legality: They’re supposed to be exemplars. Just by putting himself in position to pose for an unflattering mug shot, the Georgia athletics director has thrown his stewardship into question.
Michael Adams doesn’t like a lot of things — the BCS and Vince Dooley, to name two — but mostly the president doesn’t like being embarrassed. That’s why Jim Harrick, whom Adams had both befriended and championed, was pushed out the door within a month of Tony Cole’s appearance on ESPN in 2003.
You disappoint the president at your peril, and the president cannot be pleased today. This president chose Evans to replace Dooley, which means Adams leveraged much of what political capital he had left on the promotion. This president, as we know, has crusaded against underage drinking; he surely expects better of the adults on his staff.
There can be no quibbles about Evans as AD: Even with a difficult act to follow in Dooley, he has done well. He presides over a department that mints money and fields teams of high quality. He made a difficult decision to fire Dennis Felton and found, in Mark Fox, a coach who effected an immediate upgrade. In his public statements about Mark Richt and the football program Evans has sounded the proper notes — supportive but expectant of improvement.
Alas, there are no proper notes when you’ve been hauled to jail. There’s no way to explain the incongruity of a DUI being incurred by the man who made a video — it’s screened on the Sanford Stadium message board before and during games — imploring Georgia fans not to drink and drive.
“If you drink and drive,” Evans says in the video, “you lose.” He’s about to learn how difficult it can be to win back a good reputation. Fair or not, he’s no longer the bright and brassy AD of the state’s flagship school; he’s the guy who’ll spend the next decade trying to live down one unfortunate mug shot.
UPDATE: Georgia has scheduled a news conference for 6 or 6 :30 p.m. Thursday, and esteemed colleague Chip Towers has been told Damon Evans will appear. So that’s where I’m headed.