Doug Allison speaks to Furman Soccer players

Notes From The Field

There’s No Place Like Home

It’s sometimes hard for Allison to believe he’s been at Furman for a quarter of a century. He was only 28 years old when he took the Paladin job, not much older than the players he was coaching, and he admits the players taught him as much in those early years as he taught them.


By Vince Moore

John Quinn looking through binoculars

Allison guides his soccer team during Furman Family Weekend on September 25, 2021, against Belmont University. Furman won 2-1.

When you’ve been as successful as Furman Head Soccer Coach Doug Allison has been over the past 26 years, you’re going to have opportunities to take your coaching expertise elsewhere. While Allison was able to ignore those overtures over the years, that wasn’t the case when the University of South Carolina came calling in the summer of 2021.

A native of England, Allison was an All-American player at UofSC and is still the university’s all-time leading scorer. He is a member of the Gamecock Athletics Hall of Fame. His coach and former teammates, which includes Hootie & the Blowfish drummer Jim Sonefeld, called and told Allison it was time to consider leaving Furman and returning to his alma mater.

While the UofSC job opening did indeed get his attention, it was the players and the alumni of the Paladin program who convinced Allison that Furman was where he needed to remain.


‘Never On Their Own’

The university can feel fortunate that Allison indeed stayed, because it would have been difficult to find another head coach who could duplicate what Allison has done at Furman. His teams have won a total of 20 Southern Conference regular season and tournament championships and qualified for 11 NCAA tournaments. The 1999 and 2002 teams each won two games in the NCAA championships, with the 1999 team finishing with a 21-2-1 record and a final ranking of No. 3 in the nation.

Allison’s program has produced 133 All-Southern Conference selections, 30 All- Americans, and nine Major League Soccer (MLS) draft picks. Three of his players (Ricardo Clark ’05, Clint Dempsey ’05 and Walker Zimmerman ’14) reached the pinnacle of American soccer when they joined the U.S. National Team. In all, Allison has won 323 games as the Paladins’ head coach, his winning percentage ranking him among the top 25 active coaches in Division I.

But when Allison talks about building a program at Furman, he’s talking about more than victories and player recognition. He is just as concerned with what his players learn away from the soccer field and what they take with them after they graduate. He wants the fact that they played soccer at Furman to be something they carry with them the rest of their lives.

“It’s not just about the results on the field,” Allison says. “There’s so much more going on in the program than what happens in games. Some of our guys will go on to play professionally, but most of them won’t. How can we best support our players, both while they’re at Furman and after they leave?

Do they need help finding a job? Do they need to talk with someone who can give them professional advice? We want them to know they are part of a family, that they are never on their own.”

Zimmerman, an All-American at Furman and a current member of the U.S. National Team, plays for Nashville SC in the MLS. He said the work ethic required to compete on the field and in the classroom at Furman has served him well in both professional soccer and in other areas of his life.

“The program has a special place in my heart,” says Zimmerman, who was the 2020 MLS Defender of the Year. “There is a bond that is shared with anyone who has donned the Furman soccer badge.”

For Future Student-Athletes

The strong soccer alumni network combined with Allison’s efforts to get the community involved in the program have paid dividends. A former soccer player, Graham Seagraves ’00, and his wife, Jarrell ’00, made the donation that kick-started the fundraising efforts for a new field house at Stone Soccer Stadium. A gift from the Spinks family in Greenville made the 5,300-square-foot Spinks Field House a reality a few years later. In recent years, former players have raised nearly $1 million to fund the program’s scholarship endowment.

Steve Spinks, CEO of the Spinx Co., says his family has supported many initiatives at Furman over the years, both athletic and academic, but the soccer program has a particular significance for them.

“Doug and his coaches really connect the players with the community and the broader world in a special way,” he says.

“I don’t think another program in the country mixes top-level soccer, fun and character building in the way Doug and his program does.”

A Fond Look Back

It’s sometimes hard for Allison to believe he’s been at Furman for a quarter of a century. He was only 28 years old when he took the Paladin job, not much older than the players he was coaching, and he admits the players taught him as much in those early years as he taught them.

“I had to learn how to become a head coach,” Allison says, laughing. “It’s daunting to look back and think the 28-year-old me was making decisions that would affect these young guys’ lives.”

But he believes he’s finally got the hang of this coaching thing, and he’s looking forward to what comes next for Paladin soccer.

“I’ve enjoyed developing a lasting culture in the soccer program that the alumni feel they can always come home to,” he says. “It’s been a fantastic experience.”

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