Furman University is the latest school to cut athletic programs amid the current budget crisis.
Furman announced cost-saving measures Monday, posting a press release to notify the public that the baseball and men’s lacrosse programs are being discontinued along with furloughs, salary cuts and budget reductions.
“This is a difficult day for Furman Athletics,” director of athletics Jason Donnelly said. “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. The legacy of Furman baseball and men’s lacrosse will be remembered and celebrated.”
Furman’s release said that the pandemic accelerated an already-underway process in which the university was examining athletic spending. The university expects to save up to $5 million annually by discontinuing baseball and lacrosse.
Along with the dropped programs, Furman will implement a voluntary 20 percent salary reduction for the president, and a 10 percent salary reduction for vice presidents, athletic director, head football coach, head men’s basketball coach and other highly-paid employees. The number of athletic scholarships will also be decreased by 45 over the next five years. Baseball and lacrosse make up 21 of those scholarships, while the remaining cuts will be spread across several sports. Furman has said it will honor all scholarships for current and incoming athletes throughout their undergraduate careers.
“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 a statement about how the Greenville, S.C., university is navigating the pandemic. “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.”
Davis said that the steps are being taken with the goal of returning students to campus this fall. The mid-March shift to online instruction led to a financial hit, as events were canceled and room and board fees were returned to students. Furman is anticipating a multimillion-dollar deficit for the coming fiscal year.
The Furman baseball program dates back to 1896, and last qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2005. The Furman baseball team was 8-9 when the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus, while the men’s lacrosse team was 1-6.
“Today has been tough to say the least! First off, I’m thankful for all of those who have been supportive of Furman Baseball! I am heartbroken for all my boys, and for the families,” Furman assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator Taylor Harbin posted on Twitter, according to The State. “I am grateful to all of the coaching staff. I can’t begin to express what these three guys mean to me and my family! All of us will land on our feet, we just have to put our trust in God and know that he has a plan for all of us! I love all of you!”
Furman still has more than the 16 sports required to be an NCAA Division I member, while the Paladins will remain in the Southern Conference, which requires football, basketball and volleyball.
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Cuts are also imminent at East Carolina University. The News & Observer reported Monday that university in Greenville, N.C., is intending to cut at least one of its 20 sports to correct a $10 million budget deficit.
The prospective cuts were introduced by ECU interim chancellor Ron Mitchelson in a “Review of Athletics Fiscal Sustainability” report during a virtual meeting. Mitchelson said the timeline for cutting sports is “a matter of days.”
“This decision is really gut-wrenching for me personally,” athletic director Jon Gilbert said. “It’s not something an athletic director wants to do. I understand the financial realities of where we are both athletically and as an institution. But really to respect the process as we go down that path, the individuals who are affected need to hear from me first.”
Related content: BGSU Drops Baseball to Save Athletic Department $2M