Damon Evans resigned as Athletic Director at the University of Georgia. The resignation is justified, but it would make much more sense if coaches were held to the same standards by their own athletic directors.
Damon Evans inspired people. He possessed a relaxed but commanding presence. He spoke with passion and eloquence about the ideals of student athletes. More powerfully he lived the life as a black Georgia football player, the first black SEC AD and a successful fundraiser and leader of coaches and the department. His wife and children and new 500,000 a year contract projected an authoritative alternative model for black male athletes.
Now he has resigned in disgrace. Stopped for a DUI, he used his AD title to try to convince the arresting officer to let him off. More embarrassingly he could not explain the twenty six year old inebriated woman seated next to him who resisted arrest.
I don’t want to delve into the tragedy because the media has assured that his downfall is being followed as avidly as Tiger or Spitzer or Clinton. I long ago gave up trying to figure out what combination of arrogance, self-delusion, invincibility and stupidity leads powerful males to entangle themselves in alcohol and sex and believe they will not get caught.
I want to make another point. Why don’t we apply the same criteria we correctly apply to someone like Evans to the coaches of our college athletic teams?
Evans resigned because he brought dishonor onto his school and position. He also left because the leader should embody the values of his or her institution. Much has been made of Evan’s promo for every football game discouraging drinking. While a cliché, it is true. Good leaders walk the walk. Nothing destroys credibility as much as hypocrisy.
Now the question.
What would happen to an AD if he or she tried to strangle a subordinate? What would happen to an AD who had multiple known affairs? What would happen to an AD who physically and emotionally abused student athletes? What would happen to an AD who had sexual congress with a woman on a bar table? What would happen to an AD who paid extortion money? What would happen to an AD who got a school's, no let’s make that two different schools,
championships nullified? Well, the AD would be fired. But if you are a coach as all the above examples prove, you get to keep your job and may even get a salary raise or get hired away by another school anxious to have your wins.
The terrible irony of Damon Evans’ fall from grace is that if a successful coach had been found in a similar predicament, the odds are the coach would survive. Many logics would lead to the same conclusion: everyone deserves a second chance; this was a one-time mistake and not a pattern; he will learn from the mistake; his contrition is real and he has suffered enough. I could go on but you get the gist of the arguments and have seen them on TV reality melodramas enough.
Coaches influence the lives of student athletes far more than athletic directors. Coaches spend days with the student athletes, coaches become surrogate parents and family; coaches model day in and day out the behavior; coaches create a way of life that athletes often internalize as their own. And coaches, especially college football and basketball coaches, make more money and are far more visible in the community than any athletic director.
In a morally sane world the reasons that lead Damon Evans to resign should apply to coaches and lead them to resign. College sport is not morally sane. An athletic director would not demand a successful coach resign for same incident.