Damon Evans Named UGA AD

ATHENS - When Sam Evans became the first black elected official in the tiny north Georgia town of Oakwood, it didn't draw much attention. His son's new job, which blazed another trail, was greeted differently.

Damon Evans, a 34-year-old former Georgia football player, is set to become the first minority athletic director in Southeastern Conference history and the youngest AD in the league now that he has officially been named as Vince Dooley's replacement.

The move was announced Friday by school president Michael Adams, who brushed aside questions about the hiring's racial significance.

"This decision was made because I became convinced Damon Evans was the best person for the job," said Adams. "Any side benefits are icing on the cake. This is a very competent person who I am convinced is ready for this. He's here because he's the person who most deserved the job."

Evans will work with Dooley through a six-month transitional phase before taking over on July 1, 2004, the day after Dooley's contract expires. It will be quite a step for Evans, who was recruited to the school by Dooley and was still on campus as a student as recently as 1994.

Evans will be paid a base salary of $250,000, with the possibility of $50,000 annually in incentives. Dooley is paid $333,000 per year.

"There's no doubt I'm ready," said Evans, who earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Georgia 1992 and a master's of education in sports management in 1994. "I've worked very hard. I would never harm the University of Georgia by applying for this job if I wasn't ready."

Only one of the university's 16 head coaches, equestrian coach Meghan Boenig, is younger than Evans. Dooley was 46 when he became Georgia's athletic director in 1979.

"He's better prepared than I was," Dooley said. "He's had better coaching."

Evans has been a fast climber in athletic administration since he was an assistant commissioner at the Southeastern Conference in the late '90s. Earlier this year, he was named one of the 101 most powerful minorities in sports by Sports Illustrated magazine.

For the past three years, he has been Georgia's senior associate athletic director in charge of internal affairs. In that role, he quickly impressed Dooley with his handling of the Athletic Association's budget, which grew from $28 million to $45 million in his tenure.

"He was definitely a star just waiting to happen," said Mike Cleary, the executive director of the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors. "He's a great guy who has paid his dues. I couldn't be happier."

Evans' hiring comes less than three weeks after Mississippi State became the first school in the SEC to hire a black head football coach, Sylvester Croom. This hiring reinforces the message that the league is changing, Cleary said.

"It sets a tone for the conference," he said. "You have had (black coaches in) basketball. Now you've broken the football barrier and now you've broken administration. The yoke is broken."

For Evans, that's not the point, he said.

"My goal was always to be an athletic director, not an African-American athletic director," he said. "However, I do understand the significance of being the first African-American athletic director in the SEC."

Friday's announcement ended a six-month process that began in June when Adams declined Dooley's request for a contract extension. A search committee whittled a large pool of candidates to a list of three which was submitted for Adams' final decision. Evans, North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler and Texas Christian athletic director Eric Hyman were the finalists. At that point, Adams said, he sought Dooley's input. Dooley highly recommended Evans.

"I always thought that he would be the one (to replace me)," Dooley said. "I just thought he needed a couple more years. That's one of the reason I wanted to stay on. There were many others, too."

Adams interviewed all three candidates Wednesday and offered Evans the job Thursday morning. On Thursday evening, following a Georgia men's basketball game, Evans went to Adams' home, where he signed a contract accepting the job.

The promotion of Evans may appease some of the school's fan base still angry at Adams for his handling of Dooley's situation.

"I believe the Georgia people will accept Damon Evans and this decision more than any candidate that was interviewed, and that is a good thing," Dooley said.

Evans added, "I hope I am able to calm the waters some."

But Adams insisted that had no impact on his decision.

"I am all for healing, but I would not have hired him for that reason," he said.

Evans' hiring was received very well within the athletic department. There has been a fear among some staff members that an outsider would come in and make numerous changes. This move doesn't mean all the Athletic Association employees are safe, though.

Evans said he will attempt to develop a strategic plan for the department in his first year, and that will include an evaluation of the entire staff.

"If change is necessary, we'll have to make changes," he said, adding that personnel decisions will be the toughest for him in his new job.

Evans said his goal is to take the school's athletic department to the next level. It won't be easy considering he's inheriting a department that is one of the nation's most financially stable and athletically competitive.

"I want to be recognized as the premier athletic department in the country," he said. "When you're looking for a model athletic department, I don't want you to look at Stanford, I want you to look at Georgia."

Age:   34
Position:   Athletic director-designate
Born:   Omaha, Neb.
Hometown:   Oakwood, Ga.
High school:   Gainesville
Education:   Bachelor's degree in finance, UGA, 1992; master's degree of education in sports management, UGA, 1994
Resume:    Director of compliance, University of Missouri, 1994-95; director, SEC, 1995-97; assistant commissioner for eligibility and
compliance, SEC, 1997-98; assistant athletic director, UGA, 1998-2000; senior associate AD, UGA, 2000-June 30, 2004; athletic director, UGA, July 1, 2004-present
Family:  Wife, Kerri; Son, Cameron (5); Daughter, Kennedy (2)

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