Damon Evans' UGA Fiasco: It's Easy to Pile On

Damon Evans' DUI arrest certainly represents a failing, and it's appropriate that he has been removed from his post as the University of Georgia's Athletic Director. But is he really the total "scumbag" of his current media portrayal?
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Damon Evans certainly dropped the ball, and this former wide receiver has been swiftly punished. He's been removed as University of Georgia's Athletic Director (AD) following his DUI arrest--one replete with a drunk and disorderly 28-year-old female passenger who was not his wife and whose red panties were in his lap.

But is he really the total "scumbag" of his current media portrayal? To try to answer this question, let's think about whether what happened may represent a stupendous act of self-sabotage and self-destruction rooted at some level in guilt or protest--or the actions of a completely arrogant man who thinks the rules don't apply to him. Let's consider the difference between someone who lapses morally and ethically for a host of complex and all-too-human reasons--versus someone who is fundamentally narcissistic and entitled and will try to get away with whatever he can. Of course, with Evans there could be some mix of the two, but trying to determine which mental scenario predominated in bringing about his downfall relates ultimately to his prognosis--how much genuine soul searching he'll be able to do and how much he can grow and change from the experience. These relate in turn to how much forgiveness he truly will earn and deserve.

Look, it could be with Evans that more Tiger Woods-like revelations will start tumbling out, or are hidden somewhere in his past. But it also might be that on balance he's a decent guy--perhaps far more so than Tiger--and that it can be really hard to know what makes someone of essentially high caliber so flagrantly lapse in his morals and values. Evans was Vince Dooley's protégé at UGA, and he rose to prominence and the major responsibility of AD five years ago, at the ripe old age of 35 (he's now 40). By all measures he's done a remarkable job since assuming the helm, taking a top program to one of the top programs (ranked third nationally)--this while working mainly with in-state Georgia athletes instead of the pick-of-the-litter All American roster available to many other universities. He's accomplished this while reports indicate he's tried to be an involved parent. He made sure he was at an event of his daughter's on the very first day of his AD job, and while AD he meaningfully coached his son's local league football team for two years. Who knows if this represents solid evidence of good parenting, but they could be indicators.

It's also impossible to know what might have been going wrong in his life or his marriage leading up to last week's fateful night. He's alluded in the past to the pressure of his job--how much harder it is to be top dog with everyone second guessing him instead of safely tucked in the number two position behind Vince Dooley--with Dooley taking the blows of the "fish bowl" pressure cooker. Perhaps Evans' talent meant he was promoted too far too fast too young. The irony is his DUI arrest happened on the very eve of his lucrative new five-year contract going into effect. It's pure speculation, but might he have been feeling, without being aware of it, "I can't take this anymore"? It's one of many scenarios that might explain his blatantly self-destructive choices.

As for his much maligned behavior at the scene of the arrest, is a more sympathetic view possible than the one predominating in the press? Perhaps not, but often what transpires in such situations is a matter of tone and attitude--how things are said or explained. No doubt Evans mentioned his position in the hope it would mitigate his circumstances. But was he motivated more by a plea for mercy rather than the belief he was above the law? Was he hoping the police might take into account that the consequences for him truly would be different? Many who get into trouble have the luxury of keeping their woes largely private, but not someone like him. The police appropriately did not give weight to his position or career consequences. But to mention or infer them doesn't necessarily mean Evans was behaving in an entitled or unethical manner. He may simply have been begging for a break because, even in his inebriated state, he could grasp the magnitude of the unfolding disaster.

Damon Evans just might be a person who's been "wrecked by success". He also might be someone genuinely capable of remorse, and determined to get back on track. If so, he may deserve a more sympathetic view of the trouble he's heaped upon himself. This is not to excuse his behavior or choices in the least. And it is to fully recognize that he had to go. But it's so sad when someone of seemingly high caliber brings himself down. It's important not to lose sight of this aspect, either.