Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Published 7:09 PM EDT May 18, 2020
Furman University announced Monday that due to the financial implications of COVID-19, the school is discontinuing its baseball and and men’s lacrosse programs.
In addition, school officials are cutting the salaries of the president and senior administrators, implement furloughs and enacting budget reductions, according to its athletic website.
Like many universities, Furman is expecting massive revenue loss due to the virus.
“As we all know from our shared experience, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust us into a global crisis we could not have imagined six months ago,” Furman President Elizabeth Davis said in the school’s press release. “We are taking these steps to ensure that our university can thrive and continue to carry out its academic mission at the highest level of quality and engagement.
“Although our fall semester might feel different than usual, I’m looking forward to welcoming first-year and returning students back to campus for a uniquely Furman experience.”
Within the state, other baseball programs expressed their sympathy for the Paladins.
“Can’t imagine how (Furman coach) Brett Harker and his staff feel right now, along with their players,” Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee posted on his Twitter account Monday evening. “Tremendous people. This is devastating news to all of us in our great state. Everyone involved with Furman Baseball is in our prayers.”
Players and coaches are having a hard time coming to terms with the decision, one that has left them in an uncomfortable position.
Senior catcher Dax Roper said he was “completely blindsided” by the news, which was delivered to the team and coaches via a Zoom meeting with athletic administrators at 2:30 Monday afternoon. Roper, a product of Belton-Honea Path High School, dropped two courses to delay his graduation after being granted another season of eligibility when 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now he’s unsure what his immediate future holds.
“Furman wanted me to come back and I decided it was in my best interest to come back,” said Roper, who had scored a team-leading 14 runs and shared the team lead with two home runs when the remainder of the Paladins’ season was cancelled. “My situation is a bit fishy now.”
Furman will honor the scholarships of current and incoming student-athletes in baseball and men’s lacrosse for the remainder of their undergraduate careers at Furman, and assist them with transferring to another school if they decide to do so, according to its announcement.
“This is a difficult day for Furman Athletics,” athletic director Jason Donnelly said according to the school’s press release. “We are proud of Furman’s athletics history and tradition and the student-athletes and coaches who have competed as Paladins. Moving forward, Furman Athletics will operate as an 18-sport varsity program that supports academic and athletic excellence, financial stability, gender equity and sustainable competitive success with an emphasis on revenue generation and philanthropy.
“Our immediate focus is on supporting our student-athletes and coaches impacted by today’s decisions, as well as our alumni and fans who so passionately support our programs,” Donnelly added. “The legacy of Furman baseball and men’s lacrosse will be remembered and celebrated.”
With the Furman Board of Trustees’ unanimous endorsement, the university also announced these additional measures Monday:
- A voluntary 20% salary reduction for the president and a voluntary 10% salary reduction for the vice presidents, athletics director, head coaches for football and men’s basketball, and other more highly compensated employees.
- A 5.5% reduction in operating budgets for the next fiscal year.
- A reduction of 2.5 percentage points in Furman’s contribution to employee retirement plans.
- Summer furloughs for employees with diminished workloads, and two weeks of furloughs (or equivalent) for all other employees to be taken during the next fiscal year. Furman’s human resources office will assist furloughed employees, who will retain their health benefits, with applying for unemployment and other assistance.
- Discontinuing the baseball and men’s lacrosse programs immediately, and reducing the total number of athletics scholarships by 45 over the next five years, with the reductions spread across multiple sports.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Kennington Smith covers for the Independent-Mail. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org