ATHENS – One of the most successful — and tumultuous — periods in the University of Georgia’s long history will come to an end when Dr. Michael A. Adams officially retires as the school’s president 13 months from now. Adams will make that decision public on Thursday, The AJC has learned.
The question I want to pose is, what will Adams’ legacy be with regard to Georgia’s athletics?
Certainly, Georgia’s athletic teams continued to fare well and maybe even improved during his tenure. He took over for Charles Knapp in 1997, which was coach Jim Donnan’s second year as the Bulldogs’ football coach.
It was only a short time later that UGA supporters witnessed Adams’ willingness to weigh in on athletic matters. After Georgia lost to Georgia Tech for the third year in a row in Athens in November of 2000, Adams — over athletic director Vince Dooley’s objections — made the decision to fire Donnan. It was several years later that we would find out that Adams had also promised Donnan $250,000 in a “secret deal” following the 1997 season.
That was the beginning of several clashes Adams would have with Dooley over athletic matters.
When the Bulldogs needed to hire a new men’s basketball coach, Adams added former UCLA and Rhode Island coach Jim Harrick to Dooley’s list of finalists. Harrick was eventually hired and, after a brief period of on-court success, the program had to vacate wins due to accusations of academic fraud involving basketball players. Harrick was forced to resign.
Around the same time, Dooley, who had been a member of UGA’s athletic association 40 years at that point, asked for a two-year contract extension as Georgia’s athletic director. Adams denied that request despite pressure from several influential members of the UGA Foundation, then the university’s primary fundraiser. Adams eventually granted Dooley a six-month extension, but only to assist in the transition to new athletic director Damon Evans. The controversy eventually led to the dissolution of the foundation.
“He’s been very divisive for the Georgia people,” one prominent UGA alumnus said of Adams. “There are important factions out there that would not come together for a wiener roast under him.”
But while Adams may have been divisive to the fan base, he has also been a beneficial to the teams they love to root for. Virtually every sport for which Georgia fields a team has seen dramatic facilities improvements during Adams’ tenure as chairman of the athletic board (that trend has been duplicated ten-fold on the academic side as he helped secure more than $1 billion for new construction projects). Adams’ tenure as chairman of the NCAA executive committee made him a powerful influence on national matters and in the SEC.
And, of course, because of Adams’ persistence, the Bulldogs ended up with Mark Richt as their football coach in 2001. They have since won two SEC championships after not having won one for 20 years and played in four SEC title games.
“I think he’s done one heck of a job for the university,” said longtime athletic association executive committee member Bob Bishop.
So I pose the question to you. What kind of job do you think Adams did as chairman of Georgia’s athletic board?