Reaction positive to Evans Hire

ATHENS -- Ray Goff's tenure at the University of Georgia didn't end the way he wanted it to, and it generally takes something special to get him back to the school for official functions.

One of those occasions came Friday when Damon Evans, who played wide receiver on four of Goff's football teams, was hired as the school's athletic director-designate. Evans will replace Vince Dooley on July 1, 2004.

"He's one of the people you knew was going to do well," said Goff, who was fired following the 1995 season but showed up Friday to witness Evans' introductory news conference. "You just knew. He was a classy guy."

Evans lettered from 1989-'92 and played in 33 games. He finished his career with 23 catches for 260 yards and no touchdowns. Still, he made a big impact on Goff, who spoke glowingly of Evans and his family.

"I really believe that he's a great choice," Goff said. "It's a happy day for Georgia."

It was a happy day, too, in Hall County, one hour north of Athens, where Evans played his final two years of high school football. Both seasons, the Red Elephants won the region title.

"We had always run the football, but all of a sudden, when we had Damon, we threw it a lot," said Gainesville athletic director Wayne Vickery, who coached Evans in high school. "I'm happy for Gainesville High School. I'm happy for Damon and his family. Good things happen to good people."

Evans' high school jersey has been retired.

"We can retire it again," Vickery said.

Evans, 34, said he first envisioned himself leading the Georgia athletic department not long after he left Gainesville High.

"I've been dreaming it probably from the first day I got to the University of Georgia," he said. "Did I think 15-16 years ago it would happen this soon? No, I didn't."

Rodney Garner, an assistant Georgia football coach and a personal friend of Evans, said he was happy for his friend and for the signal the hiring sent. Evans will be the first black athletic director in the SEC. Three weeks ago, Mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom, the first black football coach in the SEC.

"Two thousand and three has been a great year," Garner said. "I am excited. I think it's a great move. It's a great testament to this conference and the direction we're headed in this millennium."

Several of the school's football players reacted positively to the news. Wide receiver Fred Gibson said the race issue didn't matter to him, but he was glad to learn of Evans' promotion because he can relate to Evans as a former player and younger person than Dooley.

"I know him better than I know Coach Dooley so I like that," Gibson said.

For others, Evans' hiring is an important statement.

"It shows the university is trying to diversify the campus," senior Damien Gary said. "I think it matters a lot. Times are changing." 

Quote Rail

"I've always felt Damon was the best man for the job, but I didn't have anything to compare it to until we interviewed the candidates. They all were very competent, but there is a difference between very good and what is best for us, and I Damon is what is best for us." -- Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, who was on the search committee to hire Dooley's replacement

"The fact that Damon was the best candidate for the job and that he happens to be a minority -- the first minority athletic director in the Southeastern Conference -- makes his appointment by Dr. Adams a significant event not only for Georgia but for the SEC." -- SEC commissioner Mike Slive

"It's big for African-Americans. I hope it gives all people a sense of pride. It's got to be prideful from an alumni standpoint, from an African-American standpoint and from a society standpoint. I think it's really a move forward. This country has changed." -- UGA assistant football coach Rodney Garner

"I don't know how to describe how I feel. It's overwhelming. It's a good Christmas present, don't you think?" -- Evans' mother Diane

"One thing about youth is you believe you are ready whether anybody else does or not. You just go and you learn as you go." -- Vince Dooley

"First and foremost, we all must remember that Vince Dooley is the athletic director at Georgia until June 30, 2004. We've talked and I feel good about where we are. He told me throughout this process that if anybody was going to take over, he wanted it to be me. I feel good about where we are." -- Damon Evans

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