By Chuck Mellott
Much to the chagrin of golf enthusiasts and especially the men’s golf team, the Furman Board of Trustees recently decided to discontinue the varsity men’s golf program. Consequently, many students have been wondering what will happen to the Furman golf course, the current members of the golf team, and whether the women’s varsity program may suffer the same fate.
Gary Clark, Furman’s Director of Athletics, formally addressed the issue to the Student Government Association in an attempt to address student concerns and answer possible questions.
Clark began his address by stating that the removal of the men’s golf team is an unfortunate but necessary action in order to make Furman athletics financially sustainable. Cutting the program, he said, will save Furman anywhere from $375,000 to $400,000 each year.
Athletics will still need to make many more cuts, Clark said, as the department needs to cut a collective $2 million within the next 18 months. The majority of cuts to the athletic department will come in the form of reduced scholarships.
In order to run a balanced budget, Furman must decrease total spending by $6 million to keep next year’s revenues equal to expenditures. The other $4 million in cuts will come from organizations and facilities outside the athletic department.
Clark explained that the decision to cut the men’s golf program rather than any of the other sporting programs was carefully considered and implemented for various reasons.
The first reason: overall costs. The men’s golf program was generating the least revenue of any men’s sport. The second reason: low attendance. Golf reels in significantly fewer spectators and fans than most of the other sports.
The third reason: low participation. Golf also provides fewer positions on the roster than the majority of other sports. Ten Furman students make up the golf team while football, baseball, and soccer all have more available space for athletes, fielding teams of 83, 37, and 25, respectively.
No women’s team is in any absolute danger of being discontinued, Clark said. The ratio of male to female athletes is high at 2:1, and Clark indicated that Furman is not interested in increasing the discrepancy.
The addition of both the female and male lacrosse programs this year was intended to help give Furman an advantage in admissions since the sport would help the university recruit students from different walks of life. Clark said the addition of the lacrosse program and the removal of the golf program are completely unrelated, coincidentally occurring during the same general time period.
Clark said current members of the golf team and recently signed high school seniors will be compensated for the unfortunate turn of events. If the students wish to continue their education at Furman, their scholarships will be honored. If the students decide that transferring to play at another school is the best course of action, Furman will offer full releases.
The Furman golf course will continue to be utilized as a community resource and will accommodate the needs of the female golf team, which has won 13 Southern Conference championships in the past 20 years.
Clark said Furman is receptive to reinstating the men’s golf program if it becomes financially feasible, noting that it would require as much as a $9 million endowment. Multiple athletic programs have been discontinued in the past, including women’s gymnastics, men’s wrestling, and men’s and women’s swimming.