Whenever the University of Georgia has a football game in Sanford Stadium, athletic director Damon Evans provides a public service announcement on the video screen supporting the state's Zero Tolerance program regarding drinking and driving.
How long Evans remains in his job is up to the tolerance of school president Michael Adams.
Evans, who became the first black athletic director in Southeastern Conference history when he succeeded Vince Dooley on July 1, 2004, was arrested late Wednesday night in Atlanta on a DUI charge. The 40-year-old husband and father of two was accompanied in his 2009 BMW by 28-year-old Courtney Fuhrmann.
"My goal has always been to represent this institution in the utmost fashion," Evans said Thursday night during a news conference in Athens. "Unfortunately, I failed at that. I failed at it miserably."
Adams, a 1966 graduate of City High who is in his 14th year as UGA president, did not attend the news conference. Through a statement, he announced that he will reserve taking action until a full review by staff and legal counsel is complete.
"Drinking and driving is a serious matter, and I was extremely disappointed to hear of the arrest," Adams said. "Certainly this is not an example of the kind of leadership that I expect our senior administrators to set. I have high regard for Damon personally. I care deeply about him and his family and know him to be a man of integrity.
University of Georgia athletic director Damon Evans in a photo provided by the Atlanta Department of Corrections. (AP Photo/Atlanta Department of Corrections)
"He has sincerely apologized to me for the embarrassment this has brought upon the university."
Evans was pulled over just before midnight by a Georgia State Patrol trooper who noticed his failure to stay in his lane. Furhmann also was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after disobeying orders to remain in the car.
When asked Thursday about Fuhrmann, Evans referred to her as a friend.
"To all the people out there in Bulldog land, it's going to take a while to earn your trust back," Evans said. "I don't know if I ever will, but what I can say is that I will do everything in my power to make you believe in me once again. I'm back to ground zero."
Evans said he wants to keep his job but added, "If I bring too much shame and embarrassment to this institution, then there is no telling what may happen."
Area Bulldogs fans were shocked by the arrest. Bank of Chickamauga chairman Mike Wright, who also is treasurer of the Chattanooga/Northwest Georgia Bulldog Club, was astounded because of the time university officials spend teaching students about the perils of drinking and driving.
Wright believes Evans should receive the same punishment as former offensive coordinator Neil Callaway, who is now the head coach at UAB. Callaway was arrested on a DUI charge in April 2003 and was fined a month's salary (more than $12,000) by head coach Mark Richt.
"Overall, Damon has done a good job and until now has represented the university well," Wright said. "I think he needs to go before all the teams and athletes and apologize and be fined a month's salary. Whatever they've done in the past needs to apply to him also."
Incidentally, Thursday marked the beginning of a new five-year contract for Evans. He had been receiving $440,000 annually but now makes $550,000.
Evans signed a scholarship with Georgia in 1988 as a wide receiver and played through 1992, and he returned in '98 as an associate athletic director. In the 2005-06 fiscal year, Georgia's athletic department had a surplus of $23.9 million, which was the largest in the NCAA.
His biggest hire occurred last year when he named Mark Fox from Nevada as men's basketball coach, which has provided promising early returns.
In his public service announcement that can be seen by more than 92,000 fans, Evans says, "We ask that when you're leaving the game today that you be responsible. Don't drink and drive and don't let your friends drink and drive, because if you drink and drive, you lose."
Now it is Evans who has much to lose.
"I have two lovely children and a beautiful wife who is going through a lot right now, which haunts me and troubles me," he said. "When you have such deep feelings for someone and hurt them, as you all know, it's something that's hard to take, and I've done just that. I've hurt everybody.
"I sincerely apologize for my actions, and I sincerely hope you'll find it in your hearts to forgive."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...