UGA president to retire in 2013ATHENS, Ga. -- Michael Adams announced Thursday that he will retire in June 2013, bringing to a close the previously unmatched growth seen at the University of Georgia during his 15 years as president.
Adams' achievements include vast improvements in the university's academic profile, fundraising and facilities. He directed more than $1 billion in construction and infrastructure improvements, signed approximately 110,000 academic degrees and raised more money than UGA had amassed in its history prior to his becoming president in 1997.
"I continue to believe that the people of this state deserve a flagship university every bit as good as do the people of California or Michigan or North Carolina," Adams said. "Today we can say that together we have made great progress in that regard."
For all the good that occurred on Adams' watch, however, he will likely be best remembered for his involvement in university athletics -- a possibility reinforced by University Council executive committee chair Scott Shamp, who reminded Adams in his final year to "finish the drill," a popular slogan used by Bulldogs football coach Mark Richt -- and particularly for unceremoniously shoving then-athletic director and UGA icon Vince Dooley out the door after four decades of service.
Critics already viewed Adams as meddlesome and as a bully even before he refused to extend Dooley's contract by two years in 2003 as the Bulldogs' legendary former football coach had requested.
"He was hands-on, controlling and (some say) egotistical," Dooley wrote of Adams in his book "History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia."
I believe there comes a time when it's appropriate to step aside, to let others continue the work and that time has come for me. My love will always be deep for the University of Georgia, where I have spent the most productive years of my career.” -- Michael Adams on his retirement
Adams engaged in under-the-table retention negotiations with football coach Jim Donnan behind Dooley and UGA athletic board members' backs, resulting in a $250,000 payment to Donnan when Adams decided to fire the coach in 2000 over Dooley's objections.
Adams was intimately involved in hiring basketball coach Jim Harrick, whom he had known while working as an administrator at Pepperdine in the 1980s, and was part of the team who ignored UGA's anti-nepotism laws when Harrick hired his son Jim Harrick Jr. as an assistant coach. Harrick Jr. was involved in multiple NCAA violations that led to Georgia forfeiting wins from the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons and being placed on four years of NCAA probation.
Adams also angered many football fans by restricting tailgating on some areas of campus, such as Georgia's historic North Campus, and lobbied for the Georgia-Florida football game to no longer be referred to as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" because the nickname promoted overindulgence of alcohol.
Following the Dooley affair, the UGA Foundation -- then the school's primary fundraising arm -- hired Deloitte & Touche to conduct an audit of what it viewed as reckless spending and leadership by Adams. Despite its critical findings, Adams had staunch supporters on Georgia's Board of Regents who instead criticized the Foundation and eventually dissolved the fundraising group.
That divisiveness might have existed more prevalently under Adams' reign than under the average university president, but he also championed great academic growth at Georgia and Bulldogs teams experienced extensive success during his tenure.
Adams' hiring of Damon Evans as the SEC's first African-American athletic director in 2004 was cause for celebration in the wake of the Dooley disaster. Later, Adams earned praise for his deft handling of Evans' 2010 dismissal when the athletic director was arrested for driving under the influence in Atlanta while accompanied by a young female passenger who was not his wife.
Adams hired an overwhelmingly popular choice as Evans' successor in Greg McGarity, an Athens native who worked as an administrator under Dooley before spending 18 years under Jeremy Foley at Florida.
Adams has also been a leading figure behind the scenes in pushing for an NCAA football playoff -- a popular notion with fans which seems to finally have a foothold among Adams' fellow presidents and NCAA administrators.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive released a statement Thursday praising Adams for his leadership within the conference and the NCAA.
"Dr. Adams has made significant contributions not only to the Southeastern Conference but to intercollegiate athletics generally through his work as a national leader in the field," Slive said. "In his many roles -- as vice president, president and as a member of the executive committee -- he has provided leadership in setting and achieving the conference goals."
Georgia teams won 24 NCAA titles and 43 SEC championships and Bulldogs athletes accounted for 121 individual NCAA crowns since Adams took over in 1997. UGA earned a top-10 ranking eight times in the NACDA Directors' Cup standings, which measure an athletic department's success across all sports.
And included in the 233 campus construction projects completed under Adams are facilities upgrades for nearly all of Georgia's varsity sports.
Perhaps the many improvements made under Adams will soften the long-term view of his presidency should Georgia's profile continue to expand under his successor's guidance. While the shrewd politician no doubt realizes the Dooley affair will forever stain his legacy, Adams indicated that he hopes to pave the way for continued success in his final year as Georgia's president.
"I believe there comes a time when it's appropriate to step aside, to let others continue the work and that time has come for me," Adams said. "My love will always be deep for the University of Georgia, where I have spent the most productive years of my career. I will be invigorated in the coming year in working to assure that UGA remains well-positioned for the future, both short term and long term."