Ryan ham­mers UGA’s Adams

The Covington News - - Front page -

Bob Ryan, noted sports colum­nist for the Bos­ton Globe re­cently ripped the Na­tional Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion for con­sid­er­ing Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia pres­i­dent Michael Adams as CEO of that or­ga­ni­za­tion to suc­ceed the late Myles Brand, say­ing it would be a “ colos­sal mis­take.” The NCAA search is be­ing con­ducted by Parker Ex­ec­u­tive Search of At­lanta, the same firm that rec­om­mended Adams for the UGA job.

“ Start with the idea that he (Adams) is not an aca­demic,” Ryan opines, “Michael Adams is a spin­meis­ter. He is a clever and ruth­less politi­cian. He knows how to amass al­lies — a pow­erseek­ing liquor mag­nate named Don­ald Lee­burn be­ing the most prom­i­nent — and he knows how to wield power. He is not a leader. He is a schemer and an in­tim­ida­tor.”

Ryan cites ex­am­ples from the late in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter Richard Whitt’s book, “ Be­hind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Pol­i­tics at the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia (NewSouth Books, Mont­gomery, Ala.), which has been roundly pooh­poohed by the uni­ver­sity and gen­er­ally ig­nored by the state’s me­dia.

The book delves into is­sues in­volv­ing Adams’ con­tro­ver­sial (my un­der­state­ment of the year) reign as pres­i­dent and con­tains a copy of a DeLoitte & Touche au­dit al­leg­ing fi­nan­cial mis­deeds and other as­sorted egre­gious ac­tiv­i­ties. The au­dit was com­mis­sioned by the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Foun­da­tion, the uni­ver­sity’s pri­vate fundrais­ing arm.

The release of the au­dit find­ings was poorly man­aged by those try­ing to get the word out. The UGA Foun­da­tion naively thought the Board of Re­gents would find the au­dit of ma­te­rial in­ter­est. En­ter po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity. The re­gents, a bunch of po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees in­clud­ing the afore­men­tioned Don­ald Lee­burn who jeal­ously guard their power, gave the foun­da­tion the back of its hand and sum­mar­ily dis­missed the re­port and sev­ered the uni­ver­sity’s ties with the half-bil­lion dol­lar or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Why did Ryan feel it nec­es­sary to ham­mer Michael Adams and his can­di­dacy from far­away Bos­ton? “I have al­ways had a pas­sion for col­lege sports,” he told me from Au­gusta, where he was cov­er­ing the Mas­ters Golf Tour­na­ment. “I felt I had an obli­ga­tion to alert my read­ers about this guy.” Ryan quotes a 2004 poll of the uni­ver­sity’s largest col­lege, the Franklin Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ence which gave Adams a 70 per­cent vote of “no con­fi­dence” and in­cludes com­ments like this, “ Specif­i­cally, he read­ily com­pro­mises both eth­i­cal and moral stan­dards. He blames oth­ers for his own mis­deeds and never ad­mits per­sonal er­ror or re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Ryan said his boss Globe Sports Ed­i­tor Joe Sul­li­van fully sup­ports his views. The news­pa­per ed­i­to­ri­al­ized that the NCAA should look at peo­ple like Gra­ham Spanier, pres­i­dent of Penn State, whose foot­ball team has an 85 per­cent grad­u­a­tion rate and “cross out” Adams whose bas­ket­ball team grad­u­ates “ a pal­try 18 per­cent.”

There is an un­der­stand­ing among the me­dia that one doesn’t crit­i­cize their brethren lest they be crit­i­cized in re­turn. This doesn’t seem to faze Bob Ryan. Of the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion he says, “He (Adams) pushed out ath­letic di­rec­tor Vince Doo­ley, a much-beloved fig­ure in Ge­or­gia, a year early and sold a sur­pris­ingly com­pli­ant At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion the en­tirely mis­lead­ing premise that it was a mat­ter of aca­demics vs. ath­let­ics, which sim­ply was not the case. The idea that the news­pa­per of Ralph McGill would buy into such a phony act is truly sad.”

AJC Sports Colum­nist Mark Bradley ran Ryan’s col­umn and the Globe ed­i­to­rial on his blog with a strangely tepid de­fense of Adams. He says why not also blame for­mer bas­ket­ball coach Den­nis Fel­ton and cur­rent AD Da­mon Evans for the low grad­u­a­tion rates? I guess Bradley has never heard of CEOs. That is where the buck stops.

Has Ryan got­ten a lot of re­ac­tion to his col­umn? “Yes, I have. Mostly from down your way. Al­most all of them agree with me, but,” he laughs, “some of the let­ters say, ‘Thanks to you, now we will never get rid of this guy.’”

Adams has been quoted as say­ing he is not a se­ri­ous can­di­date for the NCAA job and plans to stay at UGA un­til his re­tire­ment. If that is so— and with Michael Adams you never know — Bob Ryan just made that de­ci­sion much eas­ier for him and for the NCAA.

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