President Davis: "Athletics Has Needed Money for Years"
President Davis said, “There is never going to be a way that makes people happy, I don’t know if there is a ‘good’ way to do it. Nobody anticipated a pandemic.”
It is no secret that Furman has felt the impact of COVID-19. Pre-pandemic financial pressures have been exacerbated COVID-19. Furman’s Athletic Department has borne the brunt of many COVID-19 induced cutbacks.
The most obvious example of this is Furman’s decision to cut the Baseball and Men’s Lacrosse programs. The decision to cut these sports is complicated: a combination of Title IX issues and lack of funding led the University to abruptly terminate the programs last spring. The decision has caused uncertainty concerning Furman Athletics. Many students are asking: will Furman make more cuts? How committed is the University to Furman student-athletes?
In an exclusive interview with The Paladin on Sept. 23, President Davis shed more light on the University’s decision to cut two of its most cherished programs. According to President Davis, refunding room and board money in Spring 2019 and having no summer activity (because of COVID-19) was a serious financial burden on the University. As a result, Furman found itself facing a multi-million-dollar budget deficit. “Everyone on campus shared in the pain to fill that gap,” according to Vice President for University Communications Tom Evelyn. Faculty had to be furloughed, many employees had a salary reduction, and every facet of the University was affected in some manner. In deciding where to make cuts, Furman had to look itself in the mirror very closely.
Athletics at Furman is not cheap. Maintaining a competitive D1 program at such a small school costs a lot of money. Davis explained that the Athletic Department is outsized to begin with. For example, despite a lack of T.V. revenue or shoe/apparel contracts, Furman offers a plethora of athletics scholarships.
With respect to the decision to cut teams, President Davis said, “Nobody saw COVID-19 coming, and nobody wanted to cut teams.” However, in response to the idea that the teams were blindsided, she explained that, “it is not reasonable to say that people didn’t know that Athletics needed money…Athletics has needed money for years.” President Davis informed The Paladin that she has been telling people this since she arrived at Furman in 2014. She stated, “Every Athletic team should have been on high alert when the [Men’s] Golf Team almost got cut in 2014.” Davis also shot down the proposal for alumni or donors to save the programs, suggesting that it was not feasible: “we’ve been asking alumni for money for a while.”
When asked about how the situation was handled, President Davis said, “There is never going to be a way that makes people happy, I don’t know if there is a ‘good’ way to do it. Nobody anticipated a pandemic.”
While it remains ambiguous as to whether Furman will cut more Athletics Programs, Davis explained: “COVID has taught me to never say never, but I don’t see any [further cuts] on the horizon. However, we do have two small recent freshmen classes so that has impacted university revenue.”
Furman is in an extremely difficult situation: it is almost impossible to please everyone. President Davis knows this, and she demonstrated a clear grasp of the gravity of the decisions that were made. More specifically, she recognized that “Anything that affects people’s lives is a hard decision. Even if the decision might be an obvious solution, the consequences are still hard.”