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A plan to end the Great Foundation Fight

Bill Shipp

Step No. 1: Vince Dooley should apologize publicly to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

After that occurs, settling the seemingly complicated controversy involving the University of Georgia and its foundation should be simple.

The fuss has gone on long enough. Two years after UGA president Mike Adams declined to extend the contract of legendary UGA athletics director Vince Dooley, the war continues between a few foundation members and Adams. Dooley's allies are still fighting mad. The regents have decided to disband the foundation. Some regents also want to fire University System chancellor Thomas Meredith. He hasn't been tough enough on Dooley's guys. A few foundation members hint that they'll sue. Several high-rolling contributors have torn up their Bulldog alumni cards. The whole thing is out of hand.

In fact, it has turned into a raging battle of superegos. "Do what's best for the University of Georgia" is a mantra long lost in the fog of fussing.

There is a way out - a simple set of steps that could restore order and tranquility to the Athens campus.

Dooley should make the first move. He ought to grant a news interview in which he declares, "The greatest mistake in my long and productive career as football coach and AD was not letting Sonny Perdue play first-string quarterback. Sonny was a great walk-on quarterback from Warner Robins, but I didn't think he was quite good enough to be a Bulldog regular. I was wrong. Today, I am sending Gov. Perdue a size 5X red-and-silver Bulldog jacket with a great black G affixed to it. After all these years, he deserves it."

Perdue has told friends repeatedly, even recently, that Dooley never gave him a fair chance to play Georgia football in the late 1960s. Perhaps that is why the governor declined to intervene in the Adams-Dooley dispute that threatens the national standing of UGA - and contributes to Perdue's expanding reputation as a bystander governor.

Perdue never quite recovered from Dooley not recognizing his quarterbacking ability. If Dooley had been on his toes, Perdue might have been another Brett Favre or even a Steve Spurrier instead of just another deceptive cracker politician. After Dooley apologizes, instituting the rest of the peace plan ought to be simple.

Step No. 2: Adams names Dooley "athletics director emeritus." The president asks the venerable coach to continue raising funds for the university. The ongoing investigation of Dooley's Athletics Department, including a possible kickback scandal, is set aside. Dooley's fans among the trustees and other big UGA contributors are made happy again. Well, almost. There's the Adams issue to be addressed. Soooo -

Step No. 3: When Meredith departs, the regents elevate Adams to University System chancellor and move him from Athens to Atlanta. This is a no-brainer. Adams is a solid administrator and a personable executive who would be an asset to the entire college system. Sure, he's made a few enemies in Athens, but you know what they say about eggs and omelets - as well as defrocked deans and uppity professors.

Step No. 4: The regents appoint Zell Miller as a transition president of the University of Georgia. This move has so many upsides that they are hard to count. The main one is this: Miller could ride off into the sunset with his legacy mostly restored as one of Georgia's most accomplished public figures. His brief sojourn into Looney Land might soon be forgotten. Meanwhile, a blue-ribbon committee of qualified educators begins a quest for a new UGA president. Breaking with national precedence in academia, the searchers decide to give preference to in-state candidates to run Georgia's flagship university.

Step No. 5: The foundation's trustees sign an agreement with the regents that the UGA president, whoever that person turns out to be, can participate as a full member in foundation activities. The regents and the foundation reconcile - again.

Step No. 6: Perdue is given special permission to wear his new G jacket everywhere he goes - even on those $2,500 lobbyist-paid helicopter hops over traffic from the mansion to Atlanta Speedway.

See how simple this could be? Perhaps you thought this was a complex problem that could never be worked out? A few subtle personnel adjustments would restore joy to Bulldog Nation.

By the time the next governor's election rolls around, the Great Foundation Fight would be forgotten. Most of the political discourse might center on less exciting matters - the Daimler factory that Georgia didn't get, the homebuilders convention that didn't come and the school system that never improved.

Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. Contact him at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA, 30160 or e-mail bshipp@bellsouth.net . His Web address is www.billshipp.com . His column appears on Wednesday and Sunday.