Furman alums try to save golf team from death sentence
Shocked and saddened at the news that Furman University is planning to kill off its storied men's golf program at the end of the school year, a number of prominent alumni have begun exploring ways to keep the team alive.
More than 50 former golfers – including Brad Faxon, the team's most prominent graduate – held a teleconference on Monday with Athletic Director Gary Clark and Interim President Karl Kohrt, according to The Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper. Among the topics of discussion were ways to salvage the program for at least one more season and secure its long-term future.
Kohrt suggested that the group create an outline and send it to him immediately because the time available to reverse the decision is short, according to the newspaper. He also explained the thought process that went into the Feb. 7 decision to kill the men's golf team as part of a schoolwide plan to save $2 million in costs.
And while the situation is dire, a successful rescue isn't unprecedented. The University of California at Berkeley dropped its men's golf team a few years ago, but its alumni banded together and raised enough money to keep the program alive. And now the team's entire budget – for scholarships, coaching salaries, travel and recruiting – is funded entirely through private fundraising efforts.
Furman's Board of Trustees made the decision to end the program after concluding that its money and athletic department resources could be better used elsewhere. They said several factors – including public visibility, attendance, competitiveness and overall costs – figured in the decision.
"Our Board deliberated at great length over this decision, and it was made after considerable discussion and analysis of our university resources and our priorities in Division I athletics," Kohrt said in a statement posted on the Furman men's golf team page. "It is always difficult to limit opportunities, especially for young men who want to compete in a sport about which they are passionate, but just like every enterprise we have to constantly evaluate where to strategically allocate our resources."
No other sports will be discontinued, school officials said, adding that any money saved won't go to other sports. Furman will honor scholarship commitments to current players and those who've signed to play starting next year.
The Furman golf program dates back to 1930, and the Paladins own 13 Southern Conference titles. Faxon was a two-time All-America player for the school in the early 1980s, and has gone on to earn eight PGA Tour victories and two Champions Tour titles.