A New Era for Athletics

Furman’s Mike Bothwell ’22 and Jaylon Pugh ’22 react after beating Wofford in the last of three downtown Weekends at the Well games this past season. The score was 67-66.

Profound change – some celebratory, some aching – arrived at Furman athletics this year.

A new athletics director. The jubilant return of men’s basketball to Greenville’s downtown arena. The announcement of the end of baseball and men’s lacrosse. The letdown of a suddenly shortened season due to the pandemic.

These changes unfolded during a time of excitement and possibility, starting in July of 2019, with the selection of a new athletics director. Jason Donnelly arrived from Villanova University, where he served as the senior associate athletics director and executive director of athletics development. Donnelly brings a commitment to an inclusive family culture within athletics, collaboration across campus, and community involvement with an emphasis on graduating complete student-athletes, raising revenue and reinvigorating our philanthropic culture.

But amid the changes, Furman athletics continues to show its academic muscle: A program record of 281 student-athletes were named to the 2019-20 Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll.


Downtown dunks

Furman is Greenville’s hometown university, and the “Weekends at The Well” men’s and women’s basketball games offered a thunderous reminder. It was a historic return to Bon Secours Wellness Arena, where the Paladins had last played during the 2006-07 season. More than 6,200 fans roared from the stands during the last of three men’s games – more than double what Timmons Arena on campus can accommodate. The year also brought men’s basketball a school record for victories for a second consecutive season. While the move to The Well boosted game attendance by 35% and revenue by 57%, it also burnishes the Furman athletics brand and invites all of Greenville, the top city for Furman alumni, to cheer for the city’s home team, strengthen the bond between city and university, and send Paladin-purple ripples across downtown businesses.

“The past year was an exciting yet challenging one for Furman Athletics. We had exceptional achievements in academics and athletics as well as some very difficult changes in our sport sponsorship profile. Still, in the midst of great uncertainty and change, I remain confident and optimistic about the future of Furman Athletics.”


A new model for success

When Donnelly arrived at Furman, the university was already in the process of developing a comprehensive long-term strategy to align its athletics programs with its core academic mission. The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the urgency for implementing this strategy. Following a comprehensive department-wide analysis conducted by national consultants and with the unanimous endorsement of the Board of Trustees, Furman decided on a new model for sustainable success and gender equity for Furman Athletics that included eliminating two sports: baseball and men’s lacrosse. While difficult, the changes bring Furman Athletics more into proportion with peers. Prior to the announcement, Furman – the third-smallest school in the Southern Conference and one of the smallest universities in Division I athletics – had the most teams in the SoCon and led in the conference in the number of scholarships and student-athletes. This realignment allows Furman to refocus its resources and compete at the highest levels in its remaining 18 varsity sports.

Women’s Golf ANNIKA Award
PING WGCA National Player of the Year
Juli Inkster National Senior Award
Southern Conference Female Athlete of the Year

Competing and succeeding

  • Ryan Adams, men’s cross-country, Savannah Carnahan, women’s indoor track (Most Outstanding Indoor Track Performer) and Natalie Srinivasan, women’s golf, were named Southern Conference Player of the Year.
  • Men’s head soccer coach Doug Allison and Robert Gary, head coach of men’s and of women’s cross-country, were selected as Southern Conference Coach of the Year. Gary also served as head men’s coach for Team USA at the 2019 IAAF World Championship in the fall of 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
  • 14 Furman sports topped the national average NCAA Academic Progress Rate, which measures eligibility, graduation and retention (997 athletics overall score out of 1,000). Five Furman sports earned NCAA APR Public Recognition Awards for a perfect APR score of 1,000: men’s basketball, men’s cross-country, men’s track & field, men’s tennis and softball.
  • Furman’s 408 student-athletes registered a grade-point average of 3.35. Half (204) of Furman’s student-athletes earned Dean’s List honors, while 50 student-athletes earned perfect 4.0 GPAs.
  • Furman placed a program record 281 student-athletes (64% of the student-athlete population) on the SoCon Academic Honor Roll.
  • Finished 1st in SoCon Men’s All Sports Competition (when season ended) and 2nd in SoCon Women’s All Sports Competition (when season ended).
  • 4 Southern Conference Championships
  • 6 NCAA Tournament Post-Season Qualifiers
  • 9 All-Americans and 1 Mid-Major All American
  • 1 Southern Conference Female Athlete of the Year
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