GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - Furman University announced on Monday that due to the unprecedented financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school will discontinue its men's baseball and men's lacrosse programs, cut the salaries of the president and senior administrators, implement furloughs, and make additional budget reductions.

Here is the full list of cost-cutting measures Furman's board of trustees approved:

  • 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.

“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 in a news release. “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," she added.

Below is the full news release from Clinton Colmenares, Director of News and Media Strategy at Furman:

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.”

Jason Donnelly, Furman's Director of Athletics, says his heart breaks for those affected. Upon his arrival to the Furman family, Donnelly said the university was already working on a comprehensive long-term strategy concerning fiscal sustainability. 

While they were in the final stages of deciding a path forward, the coronavirus pandemic struck. 

Dear Furman Athletics Family,

I hope that this note finds you and your families in good health and in good spirits during these challenging times. I’m looking forward to welcoming our student-athletes, coaches, staff and you—our passionate supporters—back to campus to cheer on the Paladins.

I am writing to you today regarding the difficult but necessary decisions announced a few minutes ago by President Elizabeth Davis [click here for announcement]. For those of you who have not yet read her message, President Davis announced numerous cost-saving measures across the university to help mitigate the significant financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the immediate measures is a reduction in the number of varsity sports that Furman Athletics will sponsor as well as a reduction in the overall number of scholarships that we award annually. In addition, head coaches Clay Hendrix and Bob Richey and I will take a voluntary 10% reduction in pay for the next year, while other members of our department have volunteered for salary reductions or will be placed on furlough for varying lengths of time. President Davis has volunteered to take a 20% reduction in her pay for the same time period.

Before I arrived at Furman last summer, university leadership was in the late stages of developing a comprehensive long-term strategy for Furman Athletics. These discussions considered fiscal sustainability, the student-athlete experience, the competitiveness of our programs and the university’s continued investments and focus on its academic programs. Furman could not continue to sponsor 20 varsity sports programs and support the number of current student scholarships with the ever-increasing costs of intercollegiate athletics and still continue to provide a competitive, world-class experience for all of our students-athletes. Furman, which has the third-smallest enrollment of the 10 Southern Conference schools, had the highest number of varsity sports, student-athletes and athletics scholarships in the conference.

While we were in the final stages of deciding on a path forward, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the necessity for more immediate action was clear, as revenues for both the university as a whole as well as for the athletics department have already – and will continue to – decline significantly. The university retained national consultants, including athletics finance experts, to advise us on how best to move forward. In the end, the decision was made to no longer sponsor Baseball and Men’s Lacrosse, and to reduce the number of athletics scholarships offered from 200 to 155 over a five-year period, which will save the University up to $5 million annually in future years but continue to allow our remaining 18 athletic programs to be competitive. The Board of Trustees, President Davis and I all support this decision.

My heart breaks for those student-athletes and coaches impacted by today’s decisions. Furman will honor all of the impacted student-athletes’ scholarships through their undergraduate careers at Furman. Should a student-athlete seek to continue his athletics career at another institution, Furman will assist in any way possible. And we will do all that we can to help our affected coaches and staff transition to another institution to continue their careers.

This is a difficult day for Furman Athletics. We are all proud of our rich history and tradition and of every student-athlete who has worn a Paladin uniform and coach who has led a Furman team. The legacy of Furman Baseball and Men’s Lacrosse will be remembered and celebrated in the future. Although our immediate focus is on supporting our student-athletes and coaches impacted by today’s 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 all for your understanding and for your continued commitment to Furman Athletics. Together, we will not only make it through the challenges ahead, but we will thrive.

Please stay well.

Sincerely,

Jason Donnelly

Director of Athletics

MORE NEWS - UofSC Fall 2020 calendar: no Fall Break, no in-person classes after Thanksgiving

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