Originally created 01/12/04

Evans approaches Georgia AD job with patience, financial savvy

ATHENS, Ga. -- Pink phone message slips litter Damon Evans' desk. An average of 50 to 60 e-mails fill his inbox each day. A framed copy of Sports Illustrated's list of the 101 most influential minorities in sports - he squeaked in as No. 100 - sits on his office floor.

Despite a busier schedule, pay raise and constant calls of congratulations, it hasn't fully dawned on Evans that he'll soon take over as athletic director, succeeding his mentor, Vince Dooley, who for 40 years has been the epitome of Bulldogs athletics.

"I told my wife, 'No, it hasn't hit me yet.' I'm getting busier and busier and busier each day with the transition ... It sinks in more and more each day," he said.

Evans, who is set to replace Dooley on July 1, is the first black athletic director in the Southeastern Conference, and at age 34, he is the youngest among NCAA Division I-A schools.

That may seem enough of a challenge, but Evans will have to use his much-talked-about charm and financial savvy to try to heal the wounds stemming from University President Michael Adams' decision to oust the beloved Dooley.

That decision and other complaints about Adams' management has caused some donors to withhold contributions to the school's largest fund-raising drive ever - the $500 million Archway to Excellence campaign.

When it comes to the controversy, Evans is caught in the middle. He was groomed for the job by Dooley and was chosen by Adams after a search committee narrowed it down to three finalists.

"I can't speculate on if it's going to go away or not, or how people feel," he told The Associated Press last week. "I will tell you I'm just going to approach it like this ... I'm here to do a job. Part of that job is to fund raise ... to provide our coaches, our student athletes with the necessary resources to compete at the highest level of academics and athletes."

When seeking comment about Evans and the school's fund-raising challenges, university officials did not return calls and Adams declined an interview request. However, when Adams announced Evans' promotion in December, he said Evans deserved the job, and if his decision helped fund-raising or heal the unrest among alumni that was "icing on the cake."

Both Adams and Dooley have praised Evans' abilities. His responsibilities as senior associate athletic director for internal affairs since 2000 included serving as the athletic department's chief financial officer. He will oversee a $60 million athletic department capital campaign besides a $45 million annual budget.

He said he has no control over those contributors who may only give to athletics because they're happy he's AD and not to academics because they're unhappy with Adams.

"Their support is greatly appreciated and without them, we can't do the things that we want to do. It's going to be necessary for me just to go out there with that message," he said. "I can't worry about things that are out of my control."

Jack Turner, a member of the athletic association board and the fund-raising UGA Foundation, said some alumni remain upset with Adams.

"I don't think Damon being appointed has really any effect" on those donors withholding contributions, Turner said.

Donor Richard "Bo" Means of Atlanta said he still is withholding part of his million-dollar contribution, which includes funds for the athletic department, the Terry College of Business and other academic areas.

"I didn't hold back money because of the athletic department. I'm glad Damon's there. I really think it's a great move and the right guy on the job," he said. "I still feel like we need a stronger (president)."

Evans is more willing to defend his age than to discuss Adams' decision to deny Dooley's request for a contract extension.

Although he's only 10 years older than some student athletes, Evans said he believes his reputation will qualm any worries about his youth.

Evans has attended Southeastern Conference and NCAA meetings since he was 28 - accompanying Dooley, who identified him early as his preferred successor. Evans has held senior level positions with the SEC, University of Missouri and UGA.

With photos of his two young children in his office and a can of Mountain Dew on his desk, Evans said his youth is a strength, not a weakness.

"I'm going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of passion, a lot of get-up-and-go, and I like to set an example that hard work, dedication and commitment can pay off," he said. "You don't always have to be a certain age to get a certain job."

Augusta State University's Clint Bryant, also a black athletic director, said Evans will be scrutinized, no matter his race. But he is serving as a model for black student athletes, Bryant said.

"What happens so many times is that our student athletes don't see any future in wanting to have a career in intercollegiate athletics ... They don't see a whole lot of people like them," he said. "Over the years, gender equity has done a lot for women in athletics. Now you have more women athletic directors than you have ever had. That time has yet to come for African-American males in great quantity."

In dealing with scrutiny, fund-raising and controversies such as the NCAA investigation into the men's basketball program, Evans will likely employ the most important thing he said he has learned from Dooley: patience.

"He taught me a lot not to rush to judgment, to really survey the situation, to take a look at it before you make your decisions. I've gotten much better at that over time. Maybe I've gotten wiser in my years," he said, grinning.

Key figures concerning the University of Georgia Athletic Department

Some key figures concerning the University of Georgia Athletic Department:

$45 million, Annual budget

$60 million, Fund-raising goal, which is the largest in athletic association history. It is part of the university's $500 million Archway to Excellence capital campaign.

$81 million, Athletic construction program, which is funded by two bonds. Major projects in the program include:

$31.25 million, Sanford Stadium expansion

$12 million, facilities for women's programs

$7.66 million, Dan Magill Tennis Center

Sources: University of Georgia Athletic Department


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