Evans gets $2.1 million deal with Georgia

GREENSBORO – Money was the topic of day Friday as Georgia's Athletic Association board of directors convened for its annual spring meeting at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee.

When the meeting was finished, athletic director Damon Evans and women's basketball coach Andy Landers were looking forward to having more of it thanks to contract extenstions. The board essentially threw out the three years remaining on Evans' current contract and locked him into a new five-year, $2.1 million deal.

"There was strong sentiment among the board for tying him up for a longer period of time," UGA president Michael Adams said. "We believe that this will put him in the top third in the Southeastern Conference (in salary)."

Evans' salary will increase from its current $330,000 to $390,000 in 2007 and keep climbing until it reaches $460,000 for the year 2011. There also is a $20,000 annual longevity bonus that will be paid in one lump sum if he fulfills all five years of the deal.

Florida's Jeremy Foley is believed to be the highest-paid athletic director in the Southeastern Conference at $515,000 annually. Former Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley, who Evans replaced in 2004, never made more than $333,000 per year.

Under Evans' watch, Georgia was heralded as the nation's most profitable athletic program in the country last year. This year, the Bulldogs have won seven SEC championships and one national championship while also breaking Florida's streak of 14 straight SEC All-Sports trophies.

"It took us longer than it should have, but we're grateful," Adams said of the trophy.

Landers also has agreed to a deal that will keep him in Athens until at least 2011. His annual compensation will increase from $431,132 to $525,000. He had one year left on his previous deal.

"Andy is one of the legendary coaches in women's collegiate basketball and has a record of achievement not matched by coaches in the history of the game," Evans said.

Landers, who has been at Georgia 27 years, ranks No. 2 in NCAA Tournament appearances and weeks ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, No. 3 in NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, and No. 4 in career victories (739) and Final Four appearances (five).

"A renewed contract allows me, our staff and our basketball team to continue to pursue the goal I had when I came here 27 years ago – that being winning a national championship," Landers said. "I'm appreciative of the confidence that our administration has in our ability to reach that goal."

Evans and Landers, like football coach Mark Richt, will receive a bonus of $15,000 for each year their teams graduation rate is in the top third of the SEC.

The board also approved the Athletic Association's new budget, which is expected to hit $63.4 million in fiscal year 2007. The projected expenditures of the department for that year are $50 million, meaning the Bulldogs once again will have one of the most profitable programs in the country.

According to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Education, Georgia made $23.9 million last year, but Evans stressed after the meeting that those numbers are misleading because they do not include money put into reserves (basically a savings account) or money used to pay down debt.

"When donors look at us, I want them to say, boy they manage our money in a prudent way," Evans said. "I don't want them to look at that big profit number out there because that is a little bit fuzzy."

For fiscal year 2006, the Bulldogs conservatively project they will place $7.8 million in reserve, pay $6 million on their debt and have $3.4 million left in unallocated funds, essentially profit. Taken as a whole, that means Georgia will make at least another $18 million this year, according to how the department of education measures profit, and could once again be the nation's most profitable program, Evans acknowledged.

For fans wondering why ticket priority donations recently went up while the department seemingly is in great shape, Evans insisted that moving forward financially is the best way to keep the program athletically and academically elite. In fact, he pointed out that Georgia football tickets remain less expensive than those at Florida, LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee.

"Now is Tennessee football a better product than Georgia football?" he asked. "I'm not saying we're going to raise anything (in the near future), but we're going to continue to look at things and make sure we never let ourselves fall behind."

The athletic department's debt load is $102 million, which is not out of the ordinary for a major college, Evans said. Ohio State currently carries a debt of $250 million, he said.

"I've seen from $80-something million to $250 million," he said. "I'd say we're somewhere in the middle."

The board also approved:

-- donating $2 million to the overall school's "Archway to Excellence" capital campaign.

The bulk of the money, $1.75 million, is earmarked to endow seven professorships over the next four years. The remaining $250,000 will fund diversity initiatives at the school, including two scholarships for minority students. The money will be donated in $500,000 installments during the next four years.

-- renaming the donor priority fundraising system the William C Hartman Jr. Fund.

Hartman, an All-American football player for the Bulldogs in the 1930s and longtime assistant coach with the team, died in March at the age of 90. The fund had been called the Georgia Education Enhancement Fund (GEEF).

"Coach Hartman was one of the most significant alumni in the history of our program – one who spent most of the last century working on behalf of the university and the Athletic Association," Evans said. "He's part of the very fiber of the Georgia tradition."

-- giving Central High School graduate Mack Guest, a former Bulldog football letterman, a spot on the board beginning next year.

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