With just under 3,000 students, many people are surprised to hear Furman has Division 1 athletics, especially those who may not be college sports fans in the first place. While we may not always be on the national stage like ACC and SEC schools, Furman is consistently one of the best athletic programs in the Southern Conference, and there is no shortage of Paladin pride amongst students. In fact, in many ways, being a small D1 school adds to the seemingly palpable sense of school spirit on campus.
Sure students-athletes who play at Furman are incredible athletes, but they are also valuable members of the Furman community in other aspects. They excel in the classroom, in student organizations, and they live in the same residence halls and apartment complexes as regular Furman students. So, when students attend Furman sporting events, they aren’t just going to see their school’s team play. They are going to cheer on their friends and classmate as they compete at the highest collegiate level. In my opinion, this is the main reason why students take such pride in Furman athletics. It also helps, though, that it is free for all students to attend sporting events. On top of that, these events take place just a short walk away from where all students live on campus.
Some of my favorite memories at Furman revolve around athletics. One that comes to mind in particular, was when Furman knocked off #8 Villanova in basketball my freshman year, just months after Villanova had one a national championship. Afterwards, many students went out to celebrate, banners were hung from windows and porches, and just about everyone on campus had been watching the game. Basketball, out of all Furman sports, has probably enjoyed the most national recognition in the past couple years. Subsequently, students have been attending home basketball games even more than in the past, making Timmons Arena a nightmare for opposing teams.
Football games, of course, are very popular amongst students as well. Furman is consistently one of the best programs in the SoCon, as well as the FCS. On game days, Greek organizations and many other student organizations will set up tents on the Furman mall and everyone goes out to tailgate. It is a great opportunity to socialize with friends and support the Paladins football team. Before kickoff, the Paladin mascot rides a horse onto the field, which is another cool game day tradition.
Because so many students have friends that are athletes and the athletic facilities are close to student housing, students don’t just go to basketball and football games, but other events as well. Many students attend soccer games, for example, where the stadium is right next to freshman housing. Some freshman dorms even overlook the stadium. I have quite a few friends on the golf team, so one of my favorite sporting events of the year is the Furman Intercollegiate golf tournament. The golf course is right next to campus, so Furman students will even go cheer on the golf team at this tournament.
Being a small D1 school, the atmosphere surrounding sports and school spirits is quite different than what you may see at a big school, but in no way is it lacking. In fact, Paladin pride stronger in some ways, because students love to go support their friends in competition.