GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- A petition aiming to reinstate Furman’s baseball team has received thousands of signatures. That team, along with men’s lacrosse, were eliminated May 18 as part of a series of cost-cutting moves.
The cuts came as the university said it’s facing a loss of revenue because of the coronavirus. Family members of Furman baseball players and a recent high school grad who had committed to play at the school said they were blindsided by the decision.
Linda Kelly, whose son Mason Kelly was one of 35 baseball players on the Furman roster, told 7News she couldn’t believe the news.
“Shock…you know and then you feel betrayed, and by the end of the day, we were angry,” she said.
She said she’s still angry. She started the petition on Change.org to “Reinstate Furman Baseball Now. As of Tuesday night, the petition had more than 7,200 signatures, just short of the goal of 7,500.
“There’s a big concentration in and around the college,” Kelly said. “That says a lot about the community and the support and what Furman baseball meant to them and I’m sure sports in general.”
She said her son chose Furman because of baseball, and he’s scrambling to find a spot on another roster.
“It’s just…I feel like it’s such an injustice to these kids,” she said.
In a release earlier this month, the university said it would save up to $5 million a year by cutting baseball and lacrosse. The university said it’s facing a multi-million dollar deficit next fiscal year because of losses in tuition, other revenues, and added costs because of the pandemic.
Recent high school graduate Ben Kesler had just committed to playing baseball at Furman a few months ago.
“I feel like I worked so hard once I decided I wanted to play baseball,” he said. “I worked so hard to get there… I feel like it just all of the sudden disappeared.”
He and his friends have signed the petition, and he says now, he’s not going to Furman if he can’t play ball.
“In the back of my mind, I still really want to play baseball,” Kesler said. “I’m just not sure exactly where that will be or if that will happen.”
A university spokesperson did respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Baseball coach Brett Harker declined to do an interview.
Furman’s budget cuts also include pay cuts for administrators and two week furloughs for all employees.