ST. SIMONS ISLAND — Georgia athletics director Damon Evans conveyed the same message to the UGA Athletics Association board of directors Thursday that he previously delivered to the school’s coaches: The Bulldogs’ 2009-10 results were not good enough.
“I make no excuses,” Evans told the board at its spring meeting. “This has been an interesting year for Georgia athletics when it comes to a national perspective. We are not where we want to be nationally. I think our program should be much higher than it is. This is probably one of the toughest years from a competitive standpoint that we’ve faced in quite some time.”
Evans added that he is proud of Georgia’s No. 2 finish in the SEC all-sports standings, which were released this week, but displeased that the Bulldogs rank No. 25 in the most recent national all-sports rankings.
UGA President Michael Adams shared Evans’ assessment, telling the Athletic Board during its meeting at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort: “It’s not been our best year on the field, but I hope in some areas we have a better year next year. I’m not going to single out any sport, but some sports that usually do very well didn’t have the type of banner years that we’ve come to expect.”
Georgia teams that had significant falloffs included football, which had the worst record (8-5) in Mark Richt’s nine years as coach; baseball, which had one of the worst records in the program’s history (16-37, including 5-23 in SEC games); and even gymnastics, which failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships after five consecutive national titles.
Evans said he has expressed his concerns in two recent staff meetings –- one with all athletics department employees and another with the head coaches.
“I’m not going to shy away from where we are,” Evans said in an interview after Thursday’s board meeting. “I want people to understand this is where we are and this is not normal for us and we’ve got to get back to where we want to be.
“I just think at the end of the day it was an unusual year for us in athletics — one we’re not used to, one I don’t plan on being the norm. And it shouldn’t be the norm here because we’ve got too many resources. We’re in a great state and with a great institution, and we’re a program that should be near the top in the country.”
Evans would not say which teams particularly disappointed him this school year — “I’m not going to call out any sports” – but he said he has “full confidence they’ll get back where they were.” He said he has no intention of replacing any of the school’s head coaches.
“If you look at what this group has accomplished individually and collectively, I would put it up against any staff in the country,” Evans said. “But I also believe that it’s my responsibility as the AD when things aren’t going like I want or we want them to go to make mention of that.
“And it’s not just solely about the coaches. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. I think it’s a collective effort, and we’ve got to refocus and make sure we understand what it really takes to have a high level of success. . . . I promise you this: We’ll figure it out. We have before.”
Evans said he and Georgia’s senior staff are undertaking “a 360-degree evaluation” of the program. “We’re going to take a hard look at ourselves and make sure we’re doing everything necessary to allow our [teams] to be successful,” Evans told the board. That includes “looking in the mirror” himself, he said later, and asking: “Am I doing all the things I possibly can . . . to help our program?”
Evans noted Georgia’s successes in some sports this school year, including a national championship in equestrian, SEC titles in men’s golf and women’s swimming, and a national semifinals appearance in men’s tennis.
Georgia trailed only Florida in the SEC all-sports standings, which are based on finishes within the conference, but the Bulldogs are having their worst year since 1997 in the NCAA all-sports standings. The final national rankings, compiled by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, will be released July 1.
More from the Athletic Board meeting: A $2 million gift to the university, an $84.75 million budget, a slight decline in football contributions, new seats for Foley Field, etc.