The coast was clear, at least at that time, and Adams explained his philosophy regarding hirings, firings and all things administrative to my sports business graduate class. I was wrapping up my Masters in Public Administration from Georgia, and figured I would take a class that might interest me outside of the normal bean counting I'd been doing in my other classes.
It was the semester after Adams fired Jim Donnan (spring of 2001), and his trip to my class gave me great insight into the way he thought. At the time Adams was not nearly controversial, but that was on the way… and how.
His visit was a little bit before he'd have to make his old friend Jim Harrick walk the plank (Harrick told the AJC today that Adams would "go to hell" because of events surrounding that firing) and not too far before he pulled the biggest move of his presidency – shoving Vince Dooley out the door.
The last move, getting rid of Dooley, was where Adams laid it all on the line… he did so and won. Now he confronts a very similar situation – to fire or not fire his athletic director. And much like the Dooley situation this is already splattered all over the media.
And the decision will go a long way in shaping Adams' colorful legacy at Georgia. In fact, it might be the decision that cements his fate one way or another with the Board of Regents, but I will get back to that in a minute.
During his visit to my class almost ten years ago, Adams pointed out – correctly – that the five most visible people at a University were the President, the Provost, the Dean of Students, the Athletic Director and the Head Football Coach. "And not necessarily in that order," he said with a knowing grin on his face. Dude is no idiot.
Adams, who has brilliant political instincts, knew then and knows today that even though Georgia has a massive budget and is the flagship school in the state – right or wrong, athletics are the thing people care about the most when it comes to Georgia.
Fast forward to the early morning of July 1, 2010 – a few months after Adams and company had signed Damon Evans to a new five-year deal – when Adams probably got a phone call notifying him the scandal which was about to put Georgia back on the front page… in a very bad way. (I can't emphasize enough how the AJC and Atlanta TV stations are going to kill Georgia on this one… and rightfully so. Even the usually timid Atlanta press pounces when they smell blood in the water… and there is blood all over right now).
Getting back to the Board of Regents… Adams is going to do what's best for him – I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean that in a real way. People do what's best for them most days; I don't think he should get killed for that. Adams haters are going to hate him. If he makes a decision one way or another he won't get credit from them – they've already decided they hate him.
Damon Evans did what was best for him Thursday night when he decided not to resign… that was the best move for Evans; it wasn't a move about right or wrong - it was the best one he had at the time. Judging between right and wrong has not been Evans' strong suit the last few days.
He decided that he was not going to give up half a million dollars a year even though he was arrested for a DUI while driving himself and a 28-year old woman, who was not his wife, that was so intoxicated that she was arrested for disorderly conduct because she would not stay in the car. I am not suggesting it was the "right" thing to do, but it was what was best for Evans at that moment in terms of self-preservation.
By not resigning, Evans is going to force Adams to either save the day for him or fire him once and for all. The noble move, and perhaps the easiest move considering everything we already know and certainly considering some of the speculation running rampant, is for Adams to terminate Evans. Is that the best thing politically? Time will tell, but it probably is. The problem for Adams is that the two men have formed a pretty close relationship over the years, and if Adams were to fire Evans he'd have to go through an AD search, and in the end he might lose some power, which is a no-no in the world of academics.
There is no way Adams will let Damon Evans remain the director of athletics if he decides it will threaten his remaining time as president at Georgia. There are two missing pieces to this puzzle, and that's one of them.
The other missing piece is the not-yet-released police reports and videotape of the arrest. If those two things are bad enough Adams won't have to make a decision… it will have been made for him.
Adams is not going to risk the rest of his presidency on saving Damon Evans if those reports and tapes are bad, and everyone knows it.