ATHENS — The same people who months earlier voted enthusiastically to give Damon Evans a new five-year contract moved swiftly Monday to end his tenure as the University of Georgia’s athletics director.
The executive committee of the UGA Athletic Association board of directors spent about 15 minutes on a conference call, voting unanimously to accept Evans’ resignation and approve a separation agreement that will pay him three months’ salary as severance and a $100,000 bonus for prior service.
The board’s action came five days after Evans’ arrest in Atlanta on a DUI charge and three days after the release of a police report with damaging details about the incident.
The settlement means Evans will get about $237,500, a small fraction of what he would have made under the contract he was given by the Athletic Board at a Feb. 3 meeting.
That contract, which was scheduled to take effect July 1, mere minutes after he was pulled over by the Georgia State Patrol, would have paid him $3.25 million over the next five years.
The contract required Evans to “act at all times in a manner consistent with . . . the appropriate moral, ethical and academic standards of the university” and gave Georgia the right to terminate it for a variety of reasons, including conviction of a “crime of moral turpitude.”
Evans said on the day after the arrest that he hoped to keep the job he had held since 2004, but by Saturday night, after discussions with UGA President Michael Adams, he told colleagues that he was out as athletics director. Evans met with Athletic Association attorney Edward Tolley on Sunday, signed a three-page settlement agreement and submitted his resignation to Adams.
Monday’s executive-committee teleconference was a perfunctory conclusion of a series of events that saw Evans, 40, plummet from the top of his profession.
At the February meeting, the Athletic Board expressed its enthusiastic approval of Evans’ job performance by giving him a new contract with a $110,000-a-year raise. At that meeting, Adams said of Evans: “He’s already become a nationally recognized figure in athletics, and we are fortunate to have him. . . I think he’s done an extraordinary job. . . . And there’s not been a whiff of impropriety during that six-year period. If you’re the president of an institution, that means a whole lot.”
Fast-forward to Monday, when Adams convened a to-the-point teleconference to end Evans’ tenure.
Fourteen media members gathered at the Butts-Mehre athletics headquarters building on Georgia’s south campus to listen to the call on a speaker phone and were ushered into the only conference room large enough to accommodate them -– the one in what used to be Evans’ fourth-floor office suite. The adjoining door to his private office was closed.
From the black leather chairs witha red “G” emblazoned on the back of each, you could look out the windows and see two major ongoing construction projects Evans championed — the massive expansion of the Butts-Mehre building and, in the distance, the renovation of Stegeman Coliseum.
Adams convened the conference call and quickly received a motion to go into executive –- closed –- session to discuss “a personnel matter.” Within 10 minutes, the committee returned to open session, and Adams announced Evans’ separation agreement had been approved.
“As I said on Thursday morning when I first learned of the situation, this is not an example of the kind of leadership that I expect our senior administrators to set,” Adams said. “I have high regard for Damon personally; I care deeply about him and his family.”
Adams added: “We acknowledge the many positive accomplishments of his tenure, including an increased focus on the academic success of student-athletes, the overall financial strength of the athletic department and the hiring of many very good people as head coaches and senior leaders in the athletic department.”
Adams would not entertain questions from the media Monday but said he will do so during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Within minutes of Monday’s conference call, Evans’ name had been removed from the staff directory on the UGA athletics website. In its place, the acronym “TBA” — To Be Announced — was placed beside the position of athletics director.
Evans was not on the conference call and has not returned repeated calls from the AJC the past few days. He provided a written statement Monday afternoon.
“I would like to once again offer my sincerest apology to the University of Georgia people –- the president and administration, athletic staff and coaches, fans and supporters, and especially the student-athletes,” Evans wrote.
“It had been my hope since taking the [athletics director's] job in 2004 that I would have a long career at UGA. But because of a serious mistake in judgment, that won’t be the case, and I understand that I have a long road to rebuilding my reputation and career.”
Evans thanked his supporters, encouraged the athletics department staff to keep the student-athletes “first and foremost in everything you do” and concluded: “God bless and Go Dawgs.”
Bob Bishop, a long-time executive-committee member and retired Athens banker, told the AJC late Monday that he “never would have suspected” the turn of events involving Evans. “I was just totally amazed by the whole thing — shocked,” Bishop said. But he saw Evans’ departure as inevitable under the circumstances.
“There wasn’t any dissension in the Bulldog Nation that I know of, and certainly none on the board,” Bishop said. “I just feel sad for his wife and children and for him, too, quite frankly.”
Evans’ settlement will be paid from Athletic Association funds. Aside from three months’ salary, he’ll receive on Aug. 1 the $100,000 “longevity bonus” that was called for in his past two contracts. The most recent contract said he would be entitled to the bonus by staying on the job through June 30, 2010, and would receive it within 30 days of July 1, 2011.
As part of the settlement, Evans released the university, the Athletic Association and the state “from any and all claims.” Evans and UGA agreed to make “no statements . . . which are disparaging, critical or negative toward each other.” Evans agreed to return all university property, including vehicles provided for his use, before noon Tuesday. And Evans “will receive a reference mutually agreed-to” by him and Adams.
Adams promised to discuss “the future leadership of the athletic department” on Tuesday. He likely will outline an interim arrangement for the department’s operation as well as the process for finding Evans’ successor.
Major-college athletic-director searches typically take months to complete, usually involving search committees and/or executive search firms.
When Evans was chosen to succeed Vince Dooley as Georgia’s athletics director, a search committee interviewed five candidates and forwarded three of them to Adams for final interviews.
The finalists, in addition to Evans, were Lee Fowler, then athletics director at N.C. State, and Eric Hyman, then AD at Texas Christian. Fowler was forced out at N.C. State last month, and Hyman now is athletics director at South Carolina.
The other candidates interviewed by Georgia’s search committee in late 2003 were Greg McCarity, then and now Florida’s associate athletics director, and Mark Lewis, then General Electric’s vice president of Olympic sponsorships.
In-house candidates for the job this time could include Frank Crumley, the executive associate athletics director who has gotten much credit for the Georgia program’s strong financial performance; Carla Williams, the senior associate athletics director and a former UGA basketball player; and Arthur Johnson, the associate AD for internal operations.