ATHENS, Ga. - Two days after being fired, Georgia football coach Jim Donnan agreed Wednesday to remain with the team through the Oahu Bowl against Virginia.
School president Michael Adams, who overruled athletics director Vince Dooley's recommendation that Donnan remain for another season, fired the coach in a surprise move Monday. Donnan is 39-19 in five seasons at Georgia.
After learning of the firing, players lobbied that Donnan be allowed to coach the bowl game, to be played Dec. 24 in Hawaii. Donnan has led the Bulldogs to four straight bowls, and he had the third-best coaching record in the Southeastern Conference during his tenure.
"I was sincerely moved by the outpouring of support from my team and their desire for us to finish the season together as a team," Donnan said in a statement released by the school. "I want to assure everyone that the total efforts of our coaches and players will be directed toward preparing for this game and sustaining all areas of the program, including recruiting, until a new coach is on board."
After meeting with players following Donnan's firing, Dooley said Donnan should be given the chance to coach the bowl game.
"This is his team, and I think he should have the opportunity to coach the team in the bowl game," Dooley said. "The leadership of the team felt strongly that they wanted to have the best chance to win the game and having Coach Donnan gave them the best chance."
In an interview published Wednesday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Donnan said he was surprised he was let go, since he twice sought meetings with Adams to discuss any concerns the president had with the way Donnan was running the football program.
Since Georgia's third straight loss to in-state rival Georgia Tech, and through his firing, Donnan said he has yet to meet with Adams.
"Over the years, he has been straight up with me. This time, he wasn't, but I guess that's his prerogative," Donnan told the newspaper. "He's the president, and he can do what he wants, but it just seemed like it was a situation where he had his mind made up, and he didn't want to hear anything I had to say."
Donnan said he did not know what Adams meant when he told a news conference that reasons for the firing went beyond winning and losing to the way the coach conducted himself off the field. Adams gave no specifics.
"I have the same questions about what he meant that anyone else would, because (Adams) didn't talk to me about his concerns," Donnan said. "I don't know specifically what he was alluding to. Some people have told me he didn't like the way I handled my radio show. But who knows what's a right way and wrong way to handle that sort of thing?"
Donnan was fired after four straight winning seasons. But his teams went 6-14 against the school's biggest rivals: Georgia Tech, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee.
"I just don't want to come across as bitter, because that's not me," Donnan said. "It's a tough thing, particularly when you look at what we've accomplished and from where we started. But there is nothing we can do about it now. It's over."
Donnan, 55, said he agreed to the interview to clear up misconceptions about the events that led to his firing. The first was a report that he was asked by Dooley to fire three of his assistant coaches, including his son Todd.
"That was absolutely not true," Donnan said. "Coach Dooley and I discussed personnel, and I respect his judgment, but I have never been asked to make coaching changes."
The coach said he does not know what the future will bring. Dating back to his years at Division I-AA Marshall, he has won 103 games since 1990. Only Florida's Steve Spurrier and Florida State's Bobby Bowden have won more.
"The main thing I've got to do right now is take care of my coaches and their families," Donnan said. "Some players have called, and part of my responsibility is to keep their heads on straight. They've got to go on and graduate and play."
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