I have, on occasion, been critical of Michael Adams---no, I’m not going to provide links to any of those occasions; just search the archives for "Il Duce," and you’ll see what I mean---so it is only fair for me to give the president of the University of Georgia credit for handling the last six weeks masterfully.
Damon Evans’s arrest occurred while Adams was on vacation, and the full details of that arrest were not revealed until the Friday of a holiday weekend, but the president addressed the situation swiftly, acted decisively, articulated expectations that reflected the high standards of the University, appointed a search committee with which no denizen of Bulldog Nation could quarrel, and made the right hire as quickly as due diligence permitted.
This was Michael Adams’s finest hour, and he deserves praise for turning lemons into lemonade. At about the time "red panties" entered the internet lexicon, every last one of us was thinking: This will not end well. Well, we were right: it ended spectacularly.
It isn’t as though Georgia has the best track record when it comes to smooth transitions. Heck, even the ones that go well sometimes are accompanied by baggage that prevents us from remembering them fondly; Joel Eaves, one of whose first acts as athletic director was to hire Vince Dooley as the Bulldogs’ new head football coach, took over the Georgia sports programs on the day John F. Kennedy was shot.
Since then, we routinely have made a hash of such matters. When Eaves retired in 1979, a compromise between Fred Davison and Coach Dooley led to a division of the athletic directorship, with the president’s preferred candidate becoming "athletic director for administration" and the head football coach becoming "athletic director for sports." The following year, Coach Dooley’s flirtation with Auburn as the Bulldogs prepared for the national championship game widened the rift that had led to the split athletic directorship and probably cost us Erk Russell.
Davison departed in the midst of a scandal following the Jan Kemp lawsuit, Jim Harrick was offered a job at Georgia due to presidential meddling and accepted it after first declining the post, and the conclusion of Coach Dooley’s career in the Red and Black athletic administration came at the end of another feud with another president that left the fan base inflamed.
It was not the first time that 25 years of service in one position by Vince Dooley came to a rocky close. After he stepped down as head coach at the end of the 1988 season, Coach Russell rejected a job Charles Knapp claimed never had been offered, and Dick Sheridan apparently took the job before changing his mind.
Accordingly, Ray Goff succeeded his old coach at the helm of the Georgia program, serving seven mostly mediocre years before the Bulldogs went through the same difficult transition all over again. Gary Barnett withdrew his name from consideration, Glen Mason was introduced as the new head coach of the Red and Black before backing out on the deal, and the ‘Dawgs wound up with Jim Donnan.
Although the hiring of Mark Richt went much more smoothly, he considered rejecting Vince Dooley’s offer to coach the Classic City Canines, and the recent search for a new defensive coordinator included a series of high-profile rejections before Todd Grantham was brought into the fold.
In short, Georgia often makes wise hires yet seldom enjoys seamless transitions in key positions. Today, we witnessed the rare exception to that rule, which none of us would have predicted after the unmitigated embarrassment of the circumstances under which this prominent vacancy occurred. There were a dozen different ways to louse this one up, despite the impressive list of endorsements McGarity received, yet all concerned managed to avoid the potholes and pitfalls into which we seem so unerringly to steer our scooters while emerging from alleys with expired driver’s licenses in our hip pockets.
The story of Damon Evans’s arrest broke on July 1. Greg McGarity officially begins work as his alma mater’s athletic director on September 1. That’s a pretty impressive turnaround time, even for an institution that ordinarily does this sort of thing well. Measured against the regrettable standards Georgia previously has set in such situations, it’s downright remarkable.
When you expect the worst, your only options are to be proven correct or pleasantly surprised. Damn, it feels good to be pleasantly surprised for a change.