The University of Georgia is making the wrong kind of headlines at the moment. Athletic Director Damon Evans was recently arrested by the Georgia State Patrol, charged with DUI and failure to maintain a lane. The arrest came just before his new five-year contract extension was to take effect. The extension would raise his annual salary to $550,000.
Evans was all apologies at a recent press conference, and has taken responsibility for his mistakes. He admitted that his “actions have put a black cloud over [Georgia's] storied program.”
But will that contrition be enough to save him?
UGA is in an interesting position. Evans, who took over for longtime A.D. Vince Dooley, has helped the department make financial strides and has reduced what many insiders considered to a bloated staff. Moreover, Evans is a former Bulldog football player and was the SEC’s first African-American A.D. Unfortunately, that immediately makes race an issue, and when race is involved nothing is ever simple.
However, UGA must look past that problem. It must rise above whatever negative publicity might attach itself to Evans’ firing.
The 40 year old Evans, who is married with two children, is in more than just legal trouble. He was accompanied by a 28 year old woman, Courtney Furhmann, who was also arrested, charged with disorderly conduct. Evans, who was caught with the woman’s underwear in his lap, admitted that he and Furhmann were romantically involved. These circumstances complicate matters for all involved as personal conduct and morality come into play. Though not against the law, it is certainly something the university must take into account.
“My behavior and my actions are not indicative of what we teach our student athletes,” said Evans. That is, perhaps, a rather large understatement.
Evans also made repeated assurances to the arresting officer that he was not attempting to leverage his status as the school’s top sports figure. But in fact, his words implied the exact opposite:
“I am not trying to bribe you but I am the athletic director of the University of Georgia.”
“I am not trying to bribe you, but is there anything you can do without arresting me?”
and referencing his companion’s resistance to the officers,
“I apologize and don’t want to use my influence but she is trying to protect me.”
It’s understandable that he would want to keep a low profile and avoid what would certainly be a very public arrest, but the State Patrol showed its integrity by treating him as it would anyone else. And Evans’ repeated references to his position layered yet another inappropriate action on top of a night already full of them.
Ironically, it was Evans who represented the program in by recording a taped message that is played at every home football game. The public service announcement reminds fans and players not to drive under the influence. The exact message was, “If you drink and drive, you lose.”
In those words lie justification for his dismissal. Putting aside the personal failings and apparent infidelity, Evans broke the law and the rule he once espoused.
“I feel pretty good,” Evans told the arresting officer. He then laughed, and later stated, “we go through life and we all drink and jump in a car.”
This, of course, isn’t true. Evans should certainly have heeded the warning he once delivered to a packed stadium, because such visible ignorance of his own words cannot be overlook. He drank, and he drove. Now he should lose.