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Monday, December 15, 2008

Evans: 'A Negative Light on the Institution'

In today's Telegraph, I have a story on how much the numerous off-field incidents affected Georgia's on-field success this season. Some quotes from Corvey Irvin and Rennie Curran, along with discussion from Damon Evans, reveal just how much of a rift there was in terms of focus betwen the team's leaders and the rest of the locker room.

With that in mind, here is Part 2 of my interview with UGA athletics director Damon Evans. Today, Evans discusses the numerous off-field transgressions among Georgia's football team this year, the work he plans to do to eliminate those problems in the future, and in the wake of Jan Kemp's death, the current academic standards for Georgia's student-athletes.

If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.


David Hale: Some of the problems that have caused Georgia to fall short of expectations this year have been out of anyone's control things like injuries. But what I'm sure is particularly troubling for you has been the numerous off-field incidents that have plagued the team all year. There were higher profile incidents just before camp that garnered a lot of attention, but even after that, more arrests and incidents cropped up. While it's probably inevitable things like this will happen from time to time, it has seemed excessive this year. Is there a solution to minimize this in the future?

Damon Evans: The incidents that happened were unfortunate, not indicative of how we want to be represented as an institution. The timing of which some of them happened at the beginning of the year really did not send a good message. I'm not going to run away from it. We did have some problems this year. Obviously you guys have seen those in the paper, and those are things we've got to work on.

I believe we've got to become more proactive. I believe our football coach has done a good job in handing down discipline to our kids. I know that he wants to do things the right way and wants our kids to do things the right way. Believe me, he and I, neither one of us want the university to be represented in an inappropriate manner. We've just got to take a hard, hard look at what transpired this year and figure out ways to minimize those types of incidents behavioral problems, discipline problems.

I think we all need to be realistic that there are going to be some issues that do arise, but the manner in which we handle those things and the manner in which we try to minimize those things are going to be significantly important because I'm a big believer in how you conduct yourself off the field will carry on to how you conduct yourself on the field basically how you play. We've got to be good on both sides. We can't live our lives one way and think that everything's going to be OK on the other side.

Is there a significant problem at the University of Georgia? No, I wouldn't say a significant problem, but there's some areas where we need to continue to address.

DH: So will you be meeting with Coach Richt after the season ends to discuss changes to the current policies you have in place regarding discipline?

DE: Mark and I are always sitting down and talking about it. When these things arise, we don't wait until the end of the year to say we'll discuss it. We talk about it, and we evaluate it. The end of the year will allow us to have more of an assessment of everything in totality of what transpired.

We're not in a panic mode right now with what went on, but I do think we need to address some things, and we'll address them in the most appropriate manner, and look at what we need to do internally to do things right.

My goal is this: I want us to be very, very proactive in our approach to discipline, to behavior, to the way in which this institution is represented by our student athletes. If you want to know, I'll be looking for more proactive ways to limit some of the discipline issues that we've had, some of the trouble spots we've run into.

DH: Does that mean more education about consequences or how to handle certain situations?

DE: Education is key, but what I don't want to do is I don't want us to just preach at the kids. I want the young men to understand the importance of character, the importance of proper behavior, to understand who they represent in the grand scheme of things because who they represent is a lot more than just themselves -- it's their families, it's the institution, the people of the Bulldog Nation to let them know how these situations they may get involved in can have a negative impact on them in the future.

This is about education, about understanding, trying to have an open dialogue and make sure that they understand but also let them know that there will be consequences if you engage in inappropriate conduct.

DH: Some of those incidents have been higher profile than others, but none have been particularly terrible offenses, felonies and such. Is there a thought that perhaps some of the disciplinary stuff that follows what is legally considered a more minor transgression need to be more significant in order to prevent things like the DUIs and that sort of thing?

DE: We need to take a look at that, but my thought process now is that any time someone gets in trouble and brings a negative light to this institution, that's not good. That's major to me, and I don't want that to happen because we're probably the most visible entity on campus, and we don't want to cast a dark cloud over this institution.

A kid getting arrested for an offense whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony both of them bring a negative light to the institution. I know there's a major as it deals with felony or misdemeanor or whatnot, but the way that we're going to approach this as we move forward, when you get in trouble, you need to realize you're casting a negative light on this institution, and in my eyes, that's major to me, that's major to our alums, and that's major to the people who love the Bulldogs.

So from a legal standpoint, there may be some differences between minor and major, for me, the casting of a negative light on this institution is significant. We don't need that to happen, and we need to limit that, and we need to make sure that we're doing everything within our power to minimize those types of occurrences.

DH: I wanted to ask you, because this is sort of a timely issue, Jan Kemp died last week, and while you obviously weren't here when that all happened originally, how much do you think the legacy of what she tried to do, bringing academics to the forefront of the athletics program, is being felt right now? Is the university in a much better place on those issues now?

DE: I wasn't here when she was around and that issue was going on, so I don't want to say one way or another, was the university bad then or is it better now. As with all institutions, you grow and you learn. I think we're a great institution academically and over the course of time has grown, but I don't want to make any specific comments because I wasn't there when it happened or involved in what went on. I would just say that I'm sorry to hear of her passing, and I wish her family well. I know she made some contributions to this institution, but I can't really comment as to what went on.

DH: Well, in terms of what you're doing now, are you pleased with the academic standards that are in place now? Are the athletic programs at an academic level that you feel meets your standards?

DE: I'm very pleased with where we are academically, but I think we can get better. I'm pleased with where this institution is academically. I think it's a great institution academically. For me, academics is first and foremost. You hear that all the time, but I can't stress to people how important that is to me, being a former student-athlete here, earning two degrees and having an opportunity to play for the Bulldogs is significant. We have got to make sure that we graduate kids and keep academics at the forefront. I think that we're doing that, but we can get better.


Check back tomorrow for the third and final installment of my interview with Evans when he talks about the UGA hoops team and what fans can expect in the coming year.

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