Commentary: How can Adams remain president?

If the NCAA finds Adams violated its rules when he negotiated his secret financial deal with Donnan, UGA could suffer severe consequences.

Considering recent developments in the ongoing fiasco involving University of Georgia president Michael Adams, it would be easy to assume that Adams knows things about the University System's Board of Regents, University System chancellor Tom Meredith and eighteen UGA Foundation Board of Trustees members that they would rather him not know. After all, those people have repeatedly supported Adams even though he has committed enough ill-advised acts to be fired many times over.

If this is not the case, why have they publicly supported Adams, even when results from a forensic audit by the Deloitte and Touche accounting firm are highly critical of him?

The independent audit was conducted at the behest of the UGA Foundation, a private entity which oversees the university's fund-raising efforts and serves in a supporting role to the university president. The report revealed that Adams may have committed a laundry list of financial wrongdoing: misappropriating foundation funds, deliberately making misleading statements to increase his pay, wasting millions of dollars in questionable management decisions, even violating IRS regulations for tax-exempt organizations in giving away football tickets and breaking NCAA rules with a secret pay deal for former UGA head football Coach Jim Donnan.

A prime example of Adams' knack for wasting money is a proposed campus home for the University of Georgia's Alumni Association. The new alumni building was priced at a modest $8.6 million when it was first proposed nearly a decade ago. But when Adams got involved in the project, the proposal -since placed on hold by the UGA Real Estate Foundation -was then designed to be one of the largest buildings on campus, at a equally large cost. Deloitte and Touche describes the project as a botched management job which has cost UGA at least $1.4 million in architectural and other fees. Additionally, the UGA Foundation will sell a $1.3 million Atlanta home it acquired four years ago for use as a home away from home for Adams and other administrators. The decision to sell the house was also a result of the Deloitte and Touche negative audit of Adams as well as the foundation's regular internal audit.

The regents and Meredith have arrogantly tried to connect the audit to Adams' refusal to grant Vince Dooley a contract extension as UGA's athletics director, to divert attention away from the investigation's results. The Deloitte and Touche audit was based on facts its investigators found, not opinion, and certainly not bias as Adams and his supporters have alleged. Adams, at the request of Chancellor Meredith, assigned administrators to review and respond to the report, which was presented to the University System Board of Regents. The senior administrators who contributed to the report included: Arnett C. Mace Jr., senior vice president for academic affairs and provost; Hank Huckaby, senior vice president for finance and administration; Steve Wrigley, senior vice president for external affairs; Tom Landrum, executive assistant to the president and chief of staff; and Steve Shewmaker, executive director of legal affairs. Those committee members have been some of Adams staunchest supporters, and predictbly, they declared that all is well at UGA with Adams at its helm when nothing could be further from the truth.

If the NCAA finds Adams violated its rules when he negotiated his secret financial deal with Donnan, UGA could suffer severe consequences. Dooley has likely saved UGA's posterior from possibly major NCAA sanctions by his astute handling of the charges of academic fraud and possible rules violations in former UGA head basketball coach Jim Harrick, Sr.'s program. The NCAA will determine if it will level sanctions against UGA in the upcoming weeks. However, neither Dooley nor the other members of the school's Athletics Board of Directors knew of Adams' under-the-table deal with Donnan. Therefore, if the NCAA gets involved, Adams must alone answer for the Donnan payment ($255,250). It will be interesting to find out how much clout Adams will have with the NCAA if that happens, and if the regents and Meredith will continue supporting him if his action gets the university in the NCAA doghouse.

Two other notes of interest: First, Adams and every other UGA president in recent years have been given $25,000 from the athletics director besides other expense money they receive from various sources at UGA. Since Adams arrival, he has steadily increased his request to $50,000 and this past fiscal year, to a whopping $75,000. This is another example how Adams is taking the University of Georgia for a ride. And second, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, a former player for Dooley at UGA, still has not intervened to help settle the controversy, but could make a long-needed move concerning the Board of Regents. As governor, Perdue has the ultimate authority over the regents and he should immediately dismiss Don Leebern, Jr. as a regent. Leebern, Jr. simply has too many conflicts of interest to serve as a regent. There is speculation that Leebern, Jr. who was instrumental in bringing Adams to UGA, did not even have a college degree when he was appointed to the Board of Regents. If so, that, and Leebern, Jr.'s reported romantic relationship with UGA's head women's gymnastics coach, Suzanne Yoculan, despite the fact that Leebern, Jr. is legally married, should forfeit Leebern, Jr.'s right to serve on the board.

The UGA Foundation Board has 54 members, yet only one third (eighteen) have publicly supported Adams. That speaks volumes. And UGA's $500 million "Archway to Excellence" fund-raising campaign is in dire trouble because of the Adams controversy. The reasons donors provide for not giving money range from Adams' denial of Dooley's request to extend his contract to the president's leadership style to the expenditures under investigation by the UGA Foundation. Many major donors have said they are holding back their gifts, some in six figures, until the situation reaches an agreeable compromise for all involved parties or until Adams is no longer at the university. Donations to this fund are targeted for scholarships, faculty recruitment, expansion of research programs, campus improvements and increasing UGA's endowment. As a result, the largest fund raising campaign in UGA's history could be suspended. Even some of Adams' strongest supporters have said the controversy is hurting fund raising.

The UGA Foundation's Board of Trustees are expected to take a vote of "no confidence" in Adams. If that happens, it will further erode the UGA's constituency's trust in Adams. Also, Adams may get a pay cut (about 58 percent of Adams' annual pay of $575,000 now comes from the UGA Foundation) and his wife Mary would lose her $48,000 job with the UGA Foundation if its Board of Trustees adopt the recommendations of its lawyers. Additionally, the lawyers recommend that Adams and UGA faculty members and other school administrators no longer serve on the boards of the UGA Foundation and the UGA Real Estate Foundation, and that the president should no longer be allowed to appoint trustees to the UGA Foundation Board. Each of those measures are also long overdue for adoption.

Meanwhile, UGA continues its search for a new athletics director with the help of Baker-Parker and Associates search firm, which Adams hired and is reportedly paying the whopping sum of $50,000. The search needs to be exhausted and Dooley allowed to remain in the position and exit on his own terms. That would immediately repair much of the damage done and help heal the division present among the UGA people. Also, Dooley, a football coaching legend at UGA, may be the school's best fund raiser. His contract extension would guarantee that donations to the university would start flowing again. And regardless how much the regents, Meredith and Adams' other supporters want the nightmare that Adams has created to end, it will not until he is no longer employed by the University of Georgia. In fact, the controversy is going to continue to worsen until that happens.

-This column's editor may be contacted by U.S. Mail: Tim Gardner, 670 Old Hanging Rock Road, Newland, NC 28657; by phone (828) 766-8051: or by email: timgadawgs@yahoo.com

Please direct all questions and comments to the adresses above.


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