Georgia athletics: One year later, former AD Damon Evans tries to move on but still doesn't talk about embarrassing exit from UGA

semerson@macon.comJuly 3, 2011 

BOSTON -- This is where Damon Evans works now. Amidst a conclave of financial buildings and historical landmarks, the man who once had everything, a world away and a year ago, now works in anonymity.

That’s the way he seems to like it.

When he walks around the downtown financial district in Boston, he isn’t likely to see anyone wearing a hat with a red or black “G” on it. He might find that refreshing, or it might remind him of his goal to expand the “G” brand.

Before it all came crashing down one night a year ago, Evans ruled over one of the most profitable, popular college sports programs in America. He is an alum of that school, Georgia. It was his dream job, he was young, and he had just received a big raise.

Now, he works a couple of blocks down from the church where Samuel Adams helped plan the Boston tea party. Evans is just one of the many men and women walking in and out of a building that houses a Macy’s, a Dunkin’ Donuts and the Markley Group. That’s where Evans works.

Evans is aware that it’s been a year since the event that took him from his home state to Boston. Understandably, he would prefer to let the anniversary pass without much fanfare.

“I’m really not wanting to discuss the past, as you might imagine,” Evans said recently.

His voice sounded cheerful but clearly reluctant.

According to one friend, who preferred not to be named, Evans is just trying to focus on his family and would like to move on. Kerri, his wife, has strong roots to the Boston area, and they often vacationed with their two children at Martha’s Vineyard. So the job offer from the Markley Group, while not what the family was expecting, worked out well.

Evans is still in contact with friends and former colleagues at Georgia. But his life is now in New England, not the Deep South.

“I think he’s moved on to the next chapter of his life,” said Mark Fox, Georgia’s basketball coach, who has spoken with Evans. “I think that’s probably a fair assessment.”

The night it changed

The details of the night of June 30, 2010, are well-chronicled. Evans was arrested in Atlanta for driving under the influence, hours before his new contract -- including a raise from $440,000 to $550,000 --kicked in.

At first, Evans hoped to weather the storm. He apologized and admitted his actions had “put a black cloud over our storied program. I have to take a step back and get on track.”

But when details emerged from the arrest report -- he was with a 28-year-old woman, not his wife, who was charged with disorderly contact, and he tried to use his job as a way of getting out of the arrest -- it became clear Evans would have to quit. He resigned and received a $237,500 severance.

“It had been my hope since taking the job in 2004 that I would have a long career at UGA,” Evans said in his resignation statement July 4. “But because of a serious mistake in judgment, that won’t be the case, and I understand that I have a long road to rebuilding my reputation and career.”

And so ended the career of one of the fastest-rising people in college sports. Evans, 40 at the time of his resignation, had played wide receiver at Georgia from 1988-92 and then replaced Vince Dooley as athletic director in 2004.

The consensus was that Evans was good at his job. School president Michael Adams, when giving Evans his new contract, said Evans had “already become a nationally recognized figure in athletics.”

Many disagreed with some of Evans’ moves, including football scheduling: Greg McGarity, who replaced Evans, has with football coach Mark Richt’s blessing canceled several contracts that Evans signed, including a home-and-home series with Oregon.

But Georgia continued to rake in the money under Evans. The graduation rates of athletes went up. Facilities were improved. And his most significant hire, Fox, took the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament in his second year this past season.

“When I interviewed with (Evans) and Dr. Adams, I had a good impression from both of them,” Fox said this past week. “And I thought (Evans’) vision, it was more about Georgia, he made it more about Georgia than anything at all. It wasn’t about him.”

Fox said Evans called him a few times this past season after big wins. Evans’ departure was sudden, but Fox said he had a chance to say goodbye to his former boss, who remains “a great fan of the school and a great fan of the team.”

“I think he has a great care for the university and for a lot of the people who are here,” Fox said. “I think he’s obviously (aware) that he’s not here. And he knows the full reason why. But he’s still very supportive of those who are here.”

When Evans resigned, the school’s communications office rushed to remove his bio page from that year’s football media guide. There are no major, or even really minor, visible reminders of him in the athletics department.

People in the Butts-Mehre athletics building don’t exactly say his name only in hushed tones. But there does seem a hesitation. They say the name when it comes up, but they move on quickly.

Moving on

It’s impossible to know whether things would be drastically different around Georgia if the events of June 30-July 4, 2010, never happened. It was a busy year in the athletics department, but would Evans have handled anything differently than McGarity? There was no housecleaning in the athletics department, where life pretty much moved on.

What is known is that lives changed. What was an interesting and tantalizing scandal to the outside world was an unimaginable ordeal for those involved, and the hurt endures.

Evans, during a brief conversation, said that he is reluctant to delve much into the past. He is told that the interview can just include what he is doing now and his future.

“OK, let me collect my thoughts, and we can talk next week,” he said politely.

But the following week, Evans relayed that he is just not interested in speaking about it.

The exterior of the company’s Boston office is nondescript. A security guard sits in a booth next to the one across from the Macy’s. On this June day, the Dunkin’ Donuts has a “Go Bruins” sticker, honoring the new Stanley Cup championship team.

This is where Damon Evans works now. In a way, the world is still before him.

It’s just very different from the one he knew last year.

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