Like more than a few Georgia alums and fans -- not the least of which was Dawgsports' own Kyle King -- I was quite happy to see the news this past week that UGA President Michael Adams will be resigning in a year's time. In the interest of full disclosure, I've had beef with Adams just about ever since he set foot on UGA's campus. In a speech he gave shortly after he moved into his office in 1998, he made a gratuitous (and, if memory serves, unprovoked) remark about how The Red & Black, Georgia's independent student paper, was still free, and how the value of some things never changed. As someone who considers his experience working on that publication to be one of the formative experiences of his life, not just as a journalist but as a person, that rubbed me the wrong way.
And it set the tone for much of Adams' tenure, which was typified by puzzling decisions, autocratic behavior, and a general sense that he thought the university existed to serve him, not the other way around. Not that he didn't accomplish some valuable things during his time as UGA's top dog, but every positive thing he did seemed to be balanced out by something dumb or inexplicable. And nowhere was that more true than in the realm of athletics.
First of all, I'm not one of those people who thinks a university president should have no say in athletics whatsoever. The president's the president, and his job is to ensure the general welfare of the entire school, its athletic programs included. But Georgia has an athletic director for a reason, and at least while Vince Dooley was in that position, Adams seemed all too willing to override Dooley's counsel for reasons that were frequently inexplicable.
- Adams championed the hiring of basketball coach Jim Harrick in 1999. Dooley wanted Mike Brey, who was then the coach at Delaware, but Adams wanted his old Pepperdine buddy, and Adams got what he wanted. The rest, of course, is history: Brey has earned eight NCAA tournament appearances in 12 seasons at Notre Dame, while Harrick only lasted four seasons at Georgia before nearly imploding the basketball program with an academic scandal.
- The decision to fire Jim Donnan in 2000, while somewhat shocking at the time, looks more understandable today. And if the conventional wisdom is accurate -- that Adams wanted Donnan gone, and Dooley didn't -- then certainly Adams' judgment seems better than Dooley's in hindsight. But if Adams was so convinced Donnan shouldn't be the coach anymore, why'd he throw Donnan an extra $250,000 on his way out the door -- a quarter-million dollars that the athletics board never approved?
- And then, of course, there was the Dooley ouster in 2004, ordered by Adams. Look, you can make the case that Dooley was getting old and wouldn't have stayed much longer as AD anyway, but after a quarter-century in the position -- during which time Georgia's athletic programs were among not only the most successful in the country but the most profitable -- shouldn't a guy like that get to determine his own retirement date? Particularly when, by all appearances, he's still doing a good job?
- Oh, and the whole "don't call it the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party anymore" thing. Right, because if we just do that, nobody will want to drink at the Georgia-Florida game and everyone will behave like choir boys.
Finally, there was the way Adams treated athletics like his own personal cookie jar -- dishing out tickets to the presidential box at Sanford Stadium to family and friends under the guise that they were "donor prospects," throwing lavish Sugar Bowl parties in New Orleans on the athletics department's dime. As a near-lifelong Washington Redskins fan, I see a striking (and uncomfortable) resemblance between Adams and Dan Snyder, who never appears to have a clue what he's doing but never fails to ram through his ill-advised decisions anyway -- and blow enormous sums of money in the process.
Five or 10 years from now, we may well miss Adams' administrative talents or strategic vision. Conversely, we may be looking at a flourishing UGA engineering program or school of medicine and giving thanks to Adams for setting it all into motion. But I'm pretty confident we won't miss anything about how he tried to run Georgia athletics.