Evans will attend Georgia’s 9:45 p.m. game against Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament in part to support the Bulldogs and in part to decide the future of his head coach. While Evans is observing Felton, thousands of Georgia fans will be figuratively watching him, wondering how the 38-year-old will handle the first high-profile decision of his career.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Evans said Wednesday. “I look at just as making the appropriate decision. People are going to judge me on this, but, at the end of the day, I’m not saying, ‘People need to see Damon as this great AD.’ I just want them to know that I’m making a decision based on what I feel is most appropriate for this athletic department.”
Whether or not that is firing Felton hasn’t been determined, Evans said. How Georgia, the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Division, performs against Ole Miss, the No. 3 seed from the Western Division, will play some role in that decision, he said.
Georgia is 13-16 overall and 4-12 in the SEC this year (71-79 in five years under Felton) and has not looked pretty getting to that mark.
The Bulldogs are last in the SEC in scoring (67.8 ppg) and 10th in scoring margin (plus-.6). They finished last in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (.75), and only LSU shot the ball worse than Georgia’s 42.8 percent.
There are other problems for Felton, including a large contingent of the fan base that is angry and an even larger group that is apathetic. Georgia averaged 7,823 fans at home this season. Only Ole Miss and Auburn averaged fewer.
“Wins and losses is one of the bottom-line things, but there is so much more that goes into evaluating a program,” Evans said. “There are a lot of things I will look at in terms of how we’re doing and how we’re perceived. I’m not going to get into all the categories I look at, but I do look at a wide array of things.”
Evans’ office has gotten plenty of communication from fans about Felton’s fate, and it has been split almost evenly in its opinion.
“We don’t make our decisions based on what the fans say, but we do look at what’s going on out there and pay attention,” Evans said.
Felton made a passionate defense of his job Saturday after the Bulldogs lost their regular season finale, pointing out what kind of shape the program was in when he inherited it from the scandal-plagued staff of Jim Harrick. Only three teams in the nation faced similarly dramatic rebuilding jobs, and Georgia outperformed all of them in a similar time frame, Felton said.
“I don’t mind if a coach wants to make comparisons and things of that nature, or, if you want to say, for lack of a better term, plead his case,” Evans said. “But I have to look at everything in totality. I know just like everyone else where we were five or six years ago. I know some of things we have gone through. I have to combine all that together and say, ‘What is best for our basketball program and what is the most appropriate thing to do?’”
Evans will consult advisors in the athletic department but will make the final decision himself, he said. That decision is expected to come quickly after Georgia’s season ends.
“I have to sit down with myself and evaluate the program,” he said. “You just try to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on out there. That’s why I was put in this role and those are the things that come with it. There are going to be some people who like my decision and there are going to be others that don’t.”