Athens, Ga. Warning to any competent football coach who thinks Georgia could be a plum job.
That is, unless you want to work for an athletic director more concerned with self-preservation than with doing what's right. Unless you want to work for a president who hired the shifty Jim Harrick as men's basketball coach and fired Jim Donnan shortly after a fourth consecutive bowl season. (We could mention, too, that Donnan's team just achieved the SEC's second-best graduation rate, but no need to digress into irrelevant positives.)
Three weeks ago, Vince Dooley issued unequivocal support for Donnan.
Dooley, Georgia's athletic director, made it clear Donnan's job as head football coach was secure.
Never mind that the Bulldogs were coming off consecutive losses to Florida and Auburn. Never mind that they faced the possibility of finishing 6-5. (This was before they split with Ole Miss and Georgia Tech to finish 7-4.) Never mind that the season had begun with such soaring expectations.
Mindful of all the above, Dooley proclaimed "I like where we're at."
Sounds pretty clear-cut, doesn't it? Lest anyone try to read some doubt into those words, Dooley offered this:
"I like our coach. I like everything. I feel like he's put together a good program. He's recruited extremely well. He's put us in position to at least be picked to be competitive, and that's been a good while since we've been that way."
Well, so much for that.
Donnan was fired Monday. University president Michael Adams ordered the execution, but Dooley's hands are far from unbloodied.
Dooley had recommended to Adams that Donnan be given a one-year stay.
Then can him. OK, reevaluate him. It was, essentially, a repeat of the "significant improvement" mandate he hung on Ray Goff five years ago, only done behind closed doors.
A sharp turn from "I like everything," wouldn't you say?
Yes, you can make a strong case against Donnan's performance. A team talented enough to contend for the SEC championship lost four games. Within the conference, only Alabama disappointed more this season. In the broader view, Donnan was 6-14 against Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech.
But you can also spin a strong case in Donnan's favor. The Bulldogs lost their best defensive player, Boss Bailey, for the season on the opening kickoff. Several other key players were injured, including their starting quarterback (Quincy Carter) their best running back (Musa Smith) and their best defensive end (Bruce Adrine).
Donnan has been loyal to Georgia the last three years. He turned down a lucrative offer from North Carolina, his home state, saying his work at Georgia was unfinished. The next year, Oklahoma dangled more than a million bucks and he wouldn't even consent to an interview.
Donnan repeatedly defended Dooley, widely seen as a micro-manager, as a supportive, hands-off athletic director. His reward for loyalty? Severance pay and a good reference. If there is justification, North Carolina will snap up Donnan, the two teams will meet next year in the Peach Bowl, and Donnan's Tar Heels will enjoy a frolicking victory. And who knows? Maybe Dooley will make another coaching change. If he's still around to do Adams' dirty work.