Alumni try to save Paladins golf; Furman solid in SoCon even with more cuts coming

Alumni try to save Paladins golf; Furman solid in SoCon even with more cuts coming

February 18th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Former, current and future Furman golfers were blindsided 11 days ago when the university announced that it would be terminating the men's golf program on July 1 to help the school's financial troubles.

They tried to start a rally Monday and save the Southern Conference program. Furman also plans other financial cuts to athletics.

More than 50 former golfers including Brad Faxon, Frank Ford, Rob Langley and Jeff DeLoach -- as well as former women's golf team members Dottie Pepper and Maggie Will -- joined athletic director Gary Clark and interim president Karl Kohrt for a teleconference.

They discussed potential ways to save the program for one season or endow the program for longer. Kohrt suggested the group develop an outline and send it to him within the next 24-48 hours because time is of the essence.

Clark gave a description of the process leading up to the announcement that came late on Friday, Feb. 7.

"I was asked to identify $2 million in cuts and we looked at a number of options. We discussed them with the board and came to the conclusion that roughly $400,000 would come from men's golf," Clark said.

"The other cuts are primarily $250-300,000 in a combination of administrative cuts," Clark said. "The remaining was going to have to come from scholarship reductions. We're not going to get into specifics because it will affect what goes on in those sports.

"It's not something that we'll talk about publicly, because not every sport is not affected the same."

Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino said he received a heads-up about Furman's decision a couple days before the official announcement.

"Nobody likes dropping a sport," Iamarino said. "It's one of the worst things a department can do. Furman did what they felt like they needed to do."

Their conversation never approached the Paladins leaving the SoCon. Iamarino pointed out that Furman is adding lacrosse next year, which will be a SoCon sport with new league members Mercer, VMI and associate members Richmond, High Point, Jacksonville and Bellarmine.

"I'm not worried about Furman [leaving]," Iamarino said of the school that has won 13 SoCon men's golf team titles, had 14 medalists and has GolfWeek's 29th-rated on-campus course. "They've given no indication that they're looking around. I don't think dropping golf and adding lacrosse sends a signal like that."

The impact will be felt next year at the SoCon men's golf tournament, when only seven teams and a total of 35 players will be on the course.

"I absolutely couldn't believe it when I heard it," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf coach Mark Guhne said. "They have a rich history. They have really nice facilities -- everything a coach could want. To have all of those resources and not take advantage of them makes no sense to me."

It makes no sense to the former players who are scrambling to raise money to save the program.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.