For­mer UGA pres­i­dent heads back to Mal­ibu and all is well

The Covington News - - OPINION -

Dr. Michael Adams, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, has an­nounced he is re­turn­ing to Pep­per­dine Univer­sity, lo­cated in the wilds of Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia, to be­come chan­cel­lor, ef­fec­tive Aug. 1. He had once been that in­sti­tu­tion’s vice pres­i­dent of univer­sity af­fairs.

Adams stated he will “fo­cus on strength­en­ing the univer­sity’s en­dow­ment, rais­ing funds for new projects in­clud­ing a new events cen­ter with a bas­ket­ball arena, and ad­vis­ing Pep­per­dine Pres­i­dent An­drew Ben­ton and other young ad­min­is­tra­tors.” He says he will be gone three years and will then “reeval­u­ate the school’s needs.”

I know all of this be­cause I read it in the pa­per. Suf­fice it to say that I didn’t hear it first-hand. Mike Adams and I don’t howdy much.

When Adams first ar­rived in Athens in 1997, we had lunch and hit it off well, or so I thought. He in­vited me to speak to a group of col­lege pres­i­dents about how to deal with ex­ter­nal is­sues and then later asked me to talk to a gath­er­ing of UGA deans and vice pres­i­dents on the same sub­ject. I had prac­ticed what I preached well-enough over my ca­reer to have been rec­og­nized as one of the “100 Most In­flu­en­tial Public Re­la­tions Peo­ple of the 20th Cen­tury.” (OK, maybe it was a slow cen­tury for public re­la­tions peo­ple, but I’m try­ing to make a point here.)

Lit­tle did I know that Michael Adams wasn’t drink­ing from my fount of knowl­edge. Some­where along the way, he de­cided ei­ther to be­come his own ex­ter­nal coun­selor or to get his ad­vice from a grape­fruit. I was never quite sure which. Af­ter call­ing sev­eral of my news­pa­pers and urg­ing them to not run a col­umn of mine pooh-poohing his be­ing con­sid­ered a can­di­date for pres­i­dent of the NCAA and af­ter a snit-fit over learn­ing that my por­trait was to be hung at the univer­sity, I am in­clined to blame it on the grape­fruit.

One in­flu­en­tial leg­is­la­tor, upon hear­ing the news of Michael Adams’ de­par­ture, re­called hav­ing been dressed down by Adams, who seemed to have for­got­ten that the Leg­is­la­ture al­lo­cates funds to the Univer­sity Sys­tem, in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia. The leg­is­la­tor said he won­dered at the time if the pres­i­dent re­ally had a doc­tor­ate in po­lit­i­cal science and, if so, had he re­mem­bered any­thing he had learned. One thing he should have learned is that leg­is­la­tors don’t like to be lec­tured by col­lege pres­i­dents.

Con­tro­versy will al­ways be a part of Michael Adams’ legacy at UGA, be­gin­ning with his clumsy han­dling of his re­fusal to ex­tend the con­tract of Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Vince Doo­ley. And who can for­get Adams mak­ing a se­cret deal with then-Head Football Coach Jim Donnan to pay him a bunch of money if he ever got fired, and then hav­ing Donnan fired. That one I am still try­ing to fig­ure out. Maybe it was that darned grape­fruit again.

He is also the guy who brought in his good buddy from Pep­per­dine Univer­sity, Jim Har­rick (re­mem­ber that name?) to coach UGA bas­ket­ball and we all know how that turned out. (Please God: Don’t let Mike Adams come back to Ge­or­gia with another bas­ket­ball coach from Pep­per­dine. At least not in my life­time or Yours.)

Adams’ man­age­ment style alien­ated many long-time vol­un­teers in the UGA Foun­da­tion, the group that raises pri­vate dol­lars for the univer­sity and had been do­ing so long be­fore he showed up in Athens. Some mem­bers thought the pres­i­dent spent donor money more ir­re­spon­si­bly than a drunken sailor and com­mis­sioned a study by Deloitte & Touche that was highly crit­i­cal of Adams. (I had re­cently re­signed from the UGA Foun­da­tion. I saw this one com­ing. It was one of my wiser moves.)

A num­ber of mem­bers of the Foun­da­tion wanted the man fired. In­stead, the Board of Re­gents, com­posed mostly of big con­trib­u­tors be­holden to the gover­nor, fired the Foun­da­tion for muck­ing around in what they con­sid­ered their purview. That episode caused a se­ri­ous split in the Bull­dog Na­tion that has been slow to heal.

I some­times won­der why our re­la­tion­ship soured but, hey, stuff hap­pens. Michael Adams is headed back to Mal­ibu and both he and the folks at Pep­per­dine seem ex­cited about his re­turn. As for me, the new ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia has gone out of its way to make my fam­ily and I feel like we are once again a part of the univer­sity’s fam­ily. All’s well that ends well but this one has been a long time com­ing.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at yarb2400@bell­south.net; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139; online at dick­yarbrough.com or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb

DICK YAR­BROUGH

COLUM­NIST

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