Furman drops baseball, men’s lacrosse

Sports
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GREENVILLE, S.C. – In an effort to address the unprecedented financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Furman University on Monday announced that it would cut the salaries of the president and senior administrators, implement furloughs and budget reductions, and discontinue the baseball and men’s lacrosse programs. 

The university is focusing now on returning in the fall for in-person instruction. Senior leadership and emergency management teams, together with a task force of trustees, have been meeting regularly since January to address both urgent and long-term issues related to the pandemic. They are currently developing a detailed plan to reopen the campus that will be announced in the next few weeks.

“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,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “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.”

As is the case for universities across the country, Furman has experienced dramatic reductions in revenue. After shifting to remote instruction in March, the university refunded millions in room and board and other fees while incurring new costs related to the pandemic, such as increased technology support. The cancellation of camps and conferences, performances, and other events through the summer resulted in additional losses. At the same time, the value of the university’s endowment dropped by more than $100 million as the global economy and markets experienced downturns. 

Like most universities, Furman is expecting a decrease in enrollment this fall as many students decide to postpone college or enroll at schools closer to their homes. The combined losses in tuition and other revenues, along with the added costs of the pandemic, are expected to result in a multimillion-dollar deficit for Furman in the coming fiscal year.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been focused on prioritizing the health and safety of the Furman community while working to ensure that our students are able to make progress in their academic programs,” President Davis said.

With those priorities in mind, the university took several steps announced earlier that included freezing open positions, placing construction projects on hold and limiting expenditures to those that are absolutely essential for educating, supporting and recruiting students and for maintaining basic business operations.

With the Furman Board of Trustees’ unanimous endorsement, the university announced these additional measures today:

•    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.

The university was already in the process of developing a comprehensive long-term strategy for its athletics programs in alignment with its investment in its academic mission and vision, The Furman Advantage. The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this process.

Furman will honor the scholarships of current and incoming student-athletes in baseball and men’s lacrosse for the remainder of their undergraduate academic careers at Furman, and assist them with transferring to another institution if they decide to do so.

“This is a difficult day for Furman Athletics,” said Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly. “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.”

“None of these decisions was easy or made lightly,” President Davis said. “But I can say with great sincerity that each was carefully considered and adopted in the interest of advancing the university and fulfilling its academic mission.

“Furman’s greatest qualities,” Davis continued, “are our community’s commitment to serving and nurturing our students and one another, our ability to adapt and meet challenges head on, and our grace and kindness through it all. Working together, we will get through this and emerge a stronger university.”

Athletics Decisions

Due to financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term planning in the best interests of the university’s academic mission, Furman University will discontinue baseball and men’s lacrosse and end competition in both sports immediately. Scholarships for student-athletes currently participating in these sports will be honored throughout their undergraduate academic careers at Furman. Athletics staff also will assist any student-athletes in these sports who prefer to transfer to and compete at another institution. In addition, athletics staff and Human Resources will assist the coaches and staff impacted by these decisions.

Although our immediate focus is on supporting our student-athletes and coaches impacted by these decisions, we will push forward together with a strong, 18-sport athletics department that demonstrates academic excellence, financial stability, gender equity and sustainable competitive success with an emphasis on revenue generation and philanthropic support.
 
Thank you to our Furman Family for your understanding and for your continued commitment to Furman Athletics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.    Why is now the right time for Furman to make this decision?
A.    Furman has been in the process of developing a long-term strategy for athletics that included examining funding for the sports offered and reducing the number of unfunded scholarships. The financial impact of this crisis accelerated the evaluation and decision-making process. Furman’s leadership wanted to share this decision now in order to allow student-athletes time over the summer to make decisions regarding returning to Furman or transferring to continue their athletic careers elsewhere.

Q.    What will Furman do now to handle the process with the impacted teams?
A.    Our immediate priority will be supporting the student-athletes on the impacted teams: baseball and men’s lacrosse. A member of the athletics senior staff will be assigned to each student-athlete and his family to serve their needs and guide them through the transition. 

Q.    Would Furman like for the impacted student-athletes to stay?
A.    Yes. These student-athletes are valued members of the Furman family, and we will work closely with these young men to help them remain at Furman and complete their degrees.

Q.    Will Furman honor existing scholarships of the impacted student-athletes? 
A.    Yes. All athletics scholarships will be honored through the student’s fourth academic year in an undergraduate program at Furman. Any student’s scholarship that was previously approved for a fifth year in the 2020-21 school year will also be honored.

Q.    Will Furman honor scholarships for new incoming student-athletes in the impacted sports?  
A.    Yes. Signed national letters of intent and financial aid agreements for the 2020-21 academic year will be honored for up to four years in an undergraduate program at Furman. 

Q.    Will Furman assist student-athletes who desire to transfer? 
A.    Yes. All affected student-athletes will receive full releases to transfer, if requested. Students should contact the Athletics Compliance Office if they would like to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Q.    May student-athletes remain at Furman to earn their degrees and still be eligible as graduate transfers at another institution?  
A.    Student-athletes will be assisted by the Athletics Compliance Office to determine their individual eligibility and transfer options. 

Q.    What is the employment status of the coaches in the impacted sports?  
A.    The Director of Athletics and the Office of Human Resources are working with the individual coaches to support them during this time.  

Q.    Will student-athletes from the impacted sports have access to key support services such as academic counseling and sports medicine for continued rehabilitation purposes until graduation from Furman? 
A.    Yes. Sports medicine services and academic counseling will continue to be provided by Furman.

Q.    Were other sports considered for elimination? 
A.    Multiple options were thoroughly evaluated by the university, taking into consideration long-term academic and athletic success, financial sustainability, gender equity, and SoCon membership requirements. Consideration and respect were given to the sports’ history, tradition, former student-athletes, and supporters.  

Q.    Did Furman consider discontinuing the impacted sports at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year rather than discontinuing them immediately?  
A.    Yes. Financial reductions were part of our long-term plan, but the pandemic resulted in the need for immediate financial relief across campus. 

Q.    Will the impacted sports be reinstated sometime in the future?
A.    There is no plan to reinstate these sports.

Q.    Would additional donor support enable the reinstatement of the impacted sports?  
A.    Unfortunately, it will not, due to the need to achieve financial sustainability and a more appropriate sports profile for the institution. Furman is extremely grateful to those who have impacted and continue to impact hundreds of student-athletes’ lives through their philanthropy.

Q.    How will these savings be used by Furman University? 
A.    The savings from rightsizing the university’s subsidy to athletics will be reinvested in support of our students, faculty, and academic mission, consistent with The Furman Advantage.

Q.    What are the savings to the university from discontinuing the impacted sports? 
A.    The university will save up to $5 million annually as a result of these reductions. The reductions in athletics are part of a larger cost-savings initiative for the university due to the pandemic.

Q.    Will discontinuing these sports impact Furman’s Southern Conference affiliation?
A.    No. Since Furman continues to sponsor the sports required by the Southern Conference for membership – football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball – there is no impact on conference membership. 

Q.    How many student-athletes and coaches will be directly affected by this decision? 
A.    Approximately 95 student-athletes and six coaches.

Q.    How many total athletics scholarships were offered this year in baseball and men’s lacrosse?
A.    A total of 21 athletics scholarships were offered between both sports.

Q.    What will happen to the facilities and fields used by the impacted sports?  
A.    Furman Athletics will determine the best use for these facilities. 

Q.    Who was involved in this decision to reduce the athletics subsidy and discontinue the impacted sports?      
A.    University and athletics leadership along with the support of the Board of Trustees. In addition, nationally recognized consultants served in advisory roles. 

Q.    How will the University engage donors to honor their wishes regarding donations, endowments, or planned gifts to discontinued sports? 
A.    The University Development Office will assist all donors regarding affected gift agreements. It is our sincere hope that donors will redirect their gifts to continue to benefit student-athletes and/or other areas of Furman Athletics. 

Q.    Will club sports at Furman be an option for the impacted student-athletes?
A.    Yes. Furman has an established men’s club lacrosse team that plays in the National College Lacrosse League Division II. Furman also has a historically strong but currently inactive club baseball team, which has typically played in the National Club Baseball League. It remains a recognized club and is eligible to start again if there is interest.

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