Furman University discontinues baseball, men’s lacrosse due to COVID-19 impact

Furman University discontinues baseball, men’s lacrosse due to COVID-19 impact
Furman University is discontinuing its baseball and men’s lacrosse programs which is one of many steps the college is taking to address the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: Furman University/Facebook)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Furman University is discontinuing its baseball and men’s lacrosse programs which is one of many steps the college is taking to address the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

University officials made the announcement on Monday afternoon and said it would also cut the salaries of the president and senior administrators and implement furloughs and budget reductions.

“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.

University officials reported that Furman has experienced dramatic reductions in revenue.

According to a statement by the college, 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.

In addition, the cancellation of camps and conferences, performances, and other events through the summer resulted in additional losses, and 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,” university officials said. “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.”

The university announced these measures on 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.

According to officials, the university was already in the process of developing a comprehensive long-term strategy for its athletics programs.

“The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this process," university officials said."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. “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.”

The news of cutting the baseball program quickly made waves with other programs around the state.

Clemson head coach Monte Lee, who played and coached against the Paladins numerous times during his days at the College of Charleston, wrote “Cant imagine how @Harker31 and his staff feel right now, along with their players. Tremendous people. This is devastating news to all of us in our great state. Everyone involved with @FurmanBaseball is in our prayers”

South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston tweeted “Thoughts go out to the coaches, players and staff of @FurmanBaseball. A sad day for baseball in our state”

Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis, who played and coached at The Citadel, tweeted “I spent 17 years as a player and a coach in the Southern Conference and just shocked today to see @FurmanBaseball dropped their baseball program. I really feel for those coaches, players and baseball alumni. It was always a batter when the Citadel and Furman played each other.”

Southern Conference commissioner Jim Schaus said in a statement to Live 5 News, "“Difficult times often call for difficult decisions. We fully support the outstanding leadership in Furman President Elizabeth Davis and Athletic Director Jason Donnelly as they are addressing these challenges.”

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