Georgia should fire Evans now

Georgia should fire Evans now

July 4th, 2010 by Mark Wiedmer in Opinion Columns

Having just lost his job with the closing of the Blue Bird school bus manufacturing plant in LaFayette, Ga., Jeff Peppers is more sympathetic than most to unemployment.

But having been a Georgia Bulldogs backer all of his life, the 44-year-old Rock Spring resident also is emphatic that the person who runs the Dawg Pound be a cut above the young men and women he directs.

So as he began to sift through the Wednesday night DUI arrest of UGA athletic director Damon Evans and the subsequent revelations that Evans was holding the red panties of a female traveling companion who was not his wife, the Bulldogs loyalist in Peppers got the better of the job seeker in him.

"I don't want anyone to lose their job," Peppers said Saturday afternoon, "but it wouldn't hurt my feelings if they forced to him to resign as soon as possible."

As soon as possible passed Friday. Then Saturday. The question from this corner is simply this: What is school president Michael Adams waiting on? Internet Video rights to the arrest? The keys to Evans' BMW? A deal with Nike to start marketing Georgia red panties?

When your school has a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol, when your athletic director is a married father of two who gets caught drunk with another woman who tells the cops that she and the AD have been seeing each other "for a week or so," what's the hold-up?

For $550,000 a year -- which includes the $110,000 raise Evans was to begin earning six minutes after he was pulled over -- you surely can find a replacement with enough character and judgment not to embarrass the Bulldog Nation even a little bit, much less a lot.

In fact, for the long-term job security it might deliver, you could probably get football coach Mark Richt to take the job, which he may be better suited for than coach.

The man who preceded Evans, Vince Dooley, once handled both jobs pretty well, and even though Richt would have to return a bunch of his $3-million-a-year salary once he turned in his coaching whistle, he'd have much more job security and at least as much time to spend with his wife and children.

But regardless of whom Adams ultimately hires, he must fire Evans, who has delivered his employer a Tiger Woods moment that has nothing to do with championship performance.

Or as Peppers pointed out while clutching the red motorcycle helmet he altered to look exactly like a Georgia football helmet (complete with authentic white facemask), "We've become the school that holds our athletes to a higher standards. If we're going to do that, how can we have an athletic director who's done this?'

Everybody makes mistakes. Fair or not, when public figures make them, there are usually more painful consequences. Just ask former Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy, who lost his job after videos surfaced of him drunk at campus parties with his arms around coeds. Or former Kentucky hoops coach Billy Gillispie, who hasn't been able to land another job since his DUI arrest last summer.

Nor will technology help Evans. Police cruisers all have video these days. The mug shots of his disheveled face after three martinis and his companion's ridiculous statement, "(This charge) will be erased because he's the athletic director at UGA and he has power," are sure to short-circuit any sympathy Adams or the UGA board might have thrown his way.

After all, behind Richt and (possibly) Adams, Evans is UGA's most recognizable employee. When the school's third-most noticeable face is dumb enough to say to a police officer, "I am not trying to bribe you, but is there anything you can do without arresting me?" that employee's time is done.

Alcohol-impaired or not, you can't be a leader and role model to your campus or your community after displaying such behavior. And even if you could over time, the immediacy of today's culture doesn't provide you that time.

There is a bright spot for Evans in all of this, and it comes from Tic Price, the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball assistant and Memphis head coach who lost that post over a marriage infidelity 10 years ago.

Said Price, now a Lamar assistant, on Saturday: "If (Evans) does lose his job, he'd be the safest hire a college president could make because he won't ever do anything like that again."

But that's for another time with another school. For now, right now, Adams must make sure Evans never has a chance to do anything like this again at Georgia. He needs to send Evans to the same unemployment line as all those unfortunate souls from Blue Bird.