SBJ/April 15-21, 2013/Colleges

Former Georgia AD Damon Evans takes role with IMG College

Former University of Georgia Athletic Director Damon Evans is back in the college space, heading up a new division at IMG College that will assist schools with fundraising.

The new fundraising solutions arm will work similarly to IMG’s growing ticket sales business, with IMG College hiring a sales staff that will be embedded in the athletics department and represent the university when seeking contributions.

IMG College has not yet signed any clients, but Evans and Mark Dyer, the company’s senior vice president for business ventures, have been calling on athletic directors for the past three weeks or so, Dyer said.

Damon Evans (at Georgia in 2010) made his first public appearance with IMG College at the Final Four.
Photo by: ICON SMI
The company sees fundraising as a growth opportunity. Public universities often are restricted on paying salaries and bonuses to fundraisers because of the freezes that have been common since the recession. That means IMG College theoretically can hire more fundraisers and typically pay them better, which the company believes will position the school to raise more money.

Dyer said he has run into a handful of consultants and centralized call centers in the university fundraising space, but no one that proposes IMG College’s model, which embeds its fundraisers in the athletic department.

While Evans has been on board since late March, he made his first truly public appearance as an IMG College executive during the Final Four in Atlanta, meeting with administrators and working the lobby of downtown hotels like the Hyatt.

“Watching Damon in meetings and interacting with ADs, he can just relate to them in ways that I cannot because he’s sat in that chair,” Dyer said. “He was one of the
best and brightest young ADs when he was at Georgia and it’s time for him to be back in college athletics.”

Evans, now 43, was one of the youngest ADs in the country when Georgia elevated him into that role in 2003. He had been a wide receiver for coach Vince Dooley on the football team and rose through the administrative ranks at his alma mater. He often referred to the Georgia AD position as his dream job.

Evans was AD until 2010 when he was arrested on DUI charges with a woman who was not his wife. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charges and parted with the school on July 4, 2010, saying, “I have a long road to rebuilding my reputation and my career.”

The rebuilding has taken place under the radar. Evans, who remains with his wife, Kerri, took a job at the Markley Group, a data storage firm in Boston, and seldom has he talked about his messy departure from Georgia.

“I’m just excited and very appreciative of this opportunity,” Evans said of getting back to work in the college space. “It’s been my hope that I would get back into college athletics, but I didn’t know when it would happen. Through what’s been a setback, I’ve just learned to be patient and, fortunately, a company came along that believed in me and thought that I would bring something to the table.”

IMG College’s interest in Evans came from his long-standing relationship with Ben Sutton, IMG College’s president. IMG College was Georgia’s rights holder — and still is — when Evans was there, and Sutton said the two have remained friends in recent years.

Dyer didn’t know Evans initially but came to see how Evans’ experience and expertise in the college space could benefit the new fundraising arm.

“My takeaway is that he paid a huge price for a big mistake, but he’s kept his family together and he’s a guy who can make a big impact with our company,” Dyer said. “I think college sports needs guys like Damon helping shape the future.”

Evans will relocate to Winston-Salem, N.C., where IMG College is headquartered, and report directly to Dyer, who has guided significant growth in IMG College’s ancillary businesses. Multimedia rights and national sponsorship sales remain the core drivers of IMG College’s revenue, but seating solutions has more than doubled its revenue in the last 18 months, while IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions has grown from one school to 24 in the last two years.

Fundraising has the ability to experience similar growth, Dyer said. While IMG College is working on what the revenue model will look like, it will receive some percentage of new contributions that it generates.

“Fundraising, especially these days with the budget cuts, is as important as anything in athletics,” Dyer said. “The idea is that we’ll go in there and operate in the same fashion, except we’ll be able to hire more people, share best practices and compensate them in a way that schools won’t have a revolving door with their fundraisers.”

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