Furman's end might mark a dark beginning for college lacrosse
Those were some of the brief but heavy reactions surrounding news of Furman University discontinuing their men's lacrosse and baseball programs on Monday amid major revenue losses due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
The baseball program began back in 1896 with five appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the last coming in 2005.
As for the much younger lacrosse program, their first year of play was back in 2014 under Richie Meade, who was previously the head coach at the Naval Academy. But the Paladins never really got any momentum as they finished with an overall record of 23-66 in seven seasons. 18 of those wins came in conference play.
Furman's best season came in 2017 when they went 7-8 overall and 6-1 in SoCon play. Their nearly flawless regular season conference mark gave them a share of the regular season SoCon title with Air Force and Richmond and the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. They would lose to Richmond in their first ever conference tournament game, and did so again the following year in the 2018 SoCon Tournament.
In the end, William Holcomb led the program in goals (84) and points (121). Jonah Moore was the all-time assist leader (65) and recorded one fewer point than Holcomb did in his career (120). Hil Blaze scooped up the most ground balls (195) and was the top faceoff specialist (49.9%), Joe Stone caused the most turnovers (47), and Reilly McDermott finished with the top save percentage (51.5%) and the top goals against average (9.67). Furman was South Carolina's second Division I men's lacrosse program, following Presbyterian who went 10-63 from 2006 until 2011. Furman associate head coach Andrew Athens was a player and coach for the Blue Hose.
This year's squad had some talented players, such as freshman attackman Brett Tenaglia, sophomore attackman Anders Erickson, senior goalie Alec Van de Bovenkamp (who will play at Ohio State next season), and the other 53 student-athletes that were part of the team.
They likely won't all see each other as a 56-person group again. They won't be able to don the purple and silver. Some of them will continue to play lacrosse elsewhere, but it won't be FU lacrosse. They won't have to chance to create more memories inside their recently renovated locker room dedicated to the late Jackson Roberts or at Paladin Stadium or traveling on the road for away games. A short era of lacrosse has ended way too soon.
Furman was the unfortunate first school to cut lacrosse, men's or women's, regardless of division. They will more than likely not be the only ones. And say goodbye to any schools thinking about potentially adding lacrosse in the near future.
There's now 74 Division I men's lacrosse teams entering Memorial Day Weekend. Seven of those programs reside in the Southern Conference, including Air Force. If programs decide to play nearly all of their games against regional opponents, would the Falcons be booted out? That would cut the number of teams down to six, the minimum number for a conference to have an automatic qualifier. There's also some rumors about schools not in the best financial shape which could also hurt if it creeps into athletics and potentially lacrosse. Basically, the SoCon might be in some trouble.
A small glimpse of optimism, this could be a good sign for Hampton. The Pirates are currently and independent and are in the same geographical area as the majority of the SoCon lacrosse members. Adding them at this point, regardless of skill, should be something worth considering.
But if that institution needs to make cuts, would lacrosse suffer the same fate as Furman? To be a Division I member, schools have to sponsor either seven men's and seven women's programs or six men's and eight women's programs. The Pirates currently have seven men's and nine women's programs. But it's tough to identify which programs could be gone from schools.
Along with Furman, Bowling Green cut their baseball program last week, one that's been around since 1915 and has produced players such as Orel Hershiser and Nolan Reimold. Factors such as success, history, and conference requirements might play a role in some of these decisions. But in most cases, Athletic Directors will have to cut at least one men's sport because of Title IX. They'll also have to keep men's basketball as a Division I requirement and, if it applies, will try their best to save football.
Lacrosse will be on the chopping block for more schools in a matter of weeks and months. It might be obvious schools that haven't produced good teams recently. But it might include some surprise institutions that come out of left field.
Uncertainty fills the air.