GREENVILLE, S.C.—Rusty Miller is back where he started. He’s in his hometown, Greenville, and at his alma mater, Furman University, where he graduated in 1998. The only thing different now is that he’s in charge of the revamped and revitalized Furman Cycling Team.
Earlier this year, Furman decided to help the successful cycling program by offering some partial tuition scholarships for the team. Furman’s national reputation for academic excellence and all that Upstate South Carolina has to offer to a cyclist, including the mountains and a city becoming known as the “Boulder of the East,” convinced Miller to return and coach the team.
A former pro cyclist himself, the 37-year-old Miller had coached at Duke University for two years, where he guided the cycling team to three national championships.
He’d already been hard at work in recruiting new members for the team. That led to the addition of two members of the Furman Cycling Team: Charlie Hough of Pickens, a member of the USA junior national team for road cycling, and Nate Morse of Cohassett, Mass., also a USA junior national team member in cyclocross.
Everything is falling into place at Furman, Miller said, so much so that he expects quick results.
“There are only 12 to 15 schools that support their cycling teams with paid coaching and/or scholarships,” Miller said.
But Furman has been on top before. “About four or five years ago Furman had a group of good kids come in together and they had a lot of success,” he said.
Among those were Andy Baker and Chris Butler, Furman greats who won individual national titles in that era and are now professional riders.
“It’s not going to be a hard sell to tell a cyclist to come to Greenville for four years and train where George Hincapie chose to live,” Miller said. “We’d like to win a national title within three years.”
Cycling at the collegiate level is a non-NCAA sport. Instead, it’s overseen by USA Cycling. Furman competes in Division II of the USA Cycling Collegiate Championships for schools with an enrollment of 15,000 or fewer students.
The co-ed team has existed in various forms since the 1980s but has ebbed and flowed with student interest. Miller is excited about the team continuity that Furman’s support will make possible, and for the chance to have riders compete in all five cycling disciplines: road racing, mountain biking, velodrome (track), cyclocross and BMX. That versatility, he said, fits well within a liberal arts environment.
“I firmly believe kids build strength in all disciplines,” Miller said. “We’ll have kids try the BMX track down in Simpsonville where they can build new skills that will transfer to the roads.
“We’re still going to be a road race-centered team. That’s the part of the sport everyone knows.”
FURMAN CYCLING TEAM NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
(Performances at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships)
2011: Andy Baker, Division II Road Race
2009: Men’s Division II Team Time Trial
2008: Men’s Division II Team Time Trial
2008: Chris Butler, Division II Road Race