Don’t Read This (Experience It!)
Here’s something you may already know: Paladins show up.
Last fall, Furman football averaged more than 10,000 fans at its five home games, while the biggest game was the home opener against North Carolina A&T with 11,628 fans in September. In fact, Furman led the Southern Conference in fan attendance. The SoCon school with the next-best average was Western Carolina with 9,943. The remainder of the schools ranged from lowest (Samford University with 4,353) to third-highest (The Citadel with 9,878).
In the 2021 season, Furman Athletics launched the Furman Fan Zone, including the Wicked Weed Endzone Experience, beer and wine concessions, premium seating options and new field turf. There was also the Ingles Concert Stage, food truck options, an inflatable bouncy house, tailgate games such as cornhole, and a face painter and balloon artist.
“After having a year with limited capacity in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, Furman Athletics knew we wanted to
have a completely reimagined fan experience for this football season that fans could enjoy,” says Ty Osborne, assistant athletics director of marketing and fan experience. “Athletics Director Jason Donnelly challenged our department to create an environment that brought more energy back to Paladin Stadium, to cultivate the best atmosphere possible, because our student- athletes deserve it.”
Students, too, appreciated a better view of the game from a special student zone called Champions Grove. The results? More students attended games and stayed longer each time. Meanwhile, an average of 18 student groups requested access to the student tailgate space for each of the first four home games.
“After positive feedback from fans, we’re on the right track and will continue to develop new and fun experiences for the Furman community,” says Osborne.
By Vince Moore
If the best outcome for any Furman basketball season is winning the Southern Conference tournament and qualifying for the NCAA tournament, then both the men’s and women’s teams nearly pulled it off in 2021-22.
Each advanced to the finals of their league tournaments before coming up just short. The women lost to Mercer, 73-54, in the championship game, while the men fell to UT-Chattanooga in overtime, 64-63.
In the men’s game, Furman had taken a two-point lead with four seconds remaining before Chattanooga’s David Jean- Baptiste launched a 30-plus-foot shot at the buzzer that denied the Paladins their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1980. The game was televised nationally on ESPN and The New York Times’ Victor Mather wrote that the game was a “candidate for ending of the year.”
The women’s team did play in the postseason Women’s Basketball Invitational, losing to Bowling Green (82-61) and Austin Peay (73-59) in the double elimination format and defeating Northeastern (69-61) in the consolation bracket. The Paladins finished 20-14 overall, their first 20-win season since 1999-2000. Tierra Hodges ’22 was named consensus Southern Conference Player of the Year, leading the league in scoring (18.0), rebounding (11.9) and free throw percentage (.832).
The men’s team finished 22-12 overall. Jalen Slawson ’22 was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, while Slawson and Mike Bothwell ’22 were named first team All-SoCon.
To support student-athletes at Furman, go to furman.edu/support-athletics.