After seven long months of hoping and waiting, the 2020-21 athletic season is about to get underway for Furman coaches, athletes and fans.
The Southern Conference and Furman have released schedules for football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball, marking an official resumption of NCAA competition that had been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and reviving cancelled fall seasons by delaying their start until after the new year.
“The entire department is extremely excited about the schedules,” Furman Athletics Director Jason Donnelly said. “We’ve been patiently waiting to get back to playing. Our coaches, our athletes, our staff – they’ve done a great job prioritizing health and safety during this time and shown great perseverance and working through an unusual fall.”
The league announced Aug. 13 that there would be no fall sports because of health and safety concerns, which affected Paladin football, men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball. Now, 2021 will feature a sight unseen since the late 1800s: Furman football putting on the pads for a real game in the spring.
The Paladins host Western Carolina to kick off their seven-game season on Feb. 20. There will also be home dates with Samford on March 6, Chattanooga on March 20 and Wofford on April 17, the week before the NCAA Football Championship Series Playoffs begin.
Furman advanced to the FBS playoffs for the second time in three years last season. Schools were given the option to play non-conference games in the fall, but Furman elected not to.
“We felt like we could have competed this fall, but at the same time we respected the (SoCon) decision and understood how this was an unprecedented time,” Donnelly said. “(Football Coach) Clay Hendrix said, ‘I just want to compete whenever our playoffs are. I want to compete in that season.’ That’s the same for our soccer teams and our volleyball team.”
In September, the NCAA announced all 2020 fall championships would be moved to the spring of 2021. Cross-country is scheduled for March 15, followed by volleyball April 23-25, football April 24-May 15 and men’s and women’s soccer May 13-17.
The Paladin volleyball team will play 16 league matches beginning Feb. 4. The women’s soccer team opens defense of its 2019 regular-season conference title on March 5, while the men’s team, also hoping to defend its 2019 SoCon championship, begins play on March 13.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams will start conference play on Dec. 30 and Jan. 9, respectively, with the men playing 18 SoCon games and the women 14. Non-conference play will begin Nov. 25, with opponents and times to be announced once they’re finalized.
The other teams are also pursuing non-conference opponents and will announce those opponents and dates once they have been finalized as well.
Furman cross-country’s first and only race before the NCAA regional meets will be the SoCon men’s and women’s championships on Nov. 21 in Macon, Georgia.
Donnelly says there’s a big silver lining to be found in the delayed season: Less competition for the attention of fans normally bombarded with more games than they can possibly watch.
“I think the spring is a great opportunity for exposure on a stage where we’re kind of starved for sports and everyone’s looking to see their teams play,” he said. “I know it may sound cliche, but all of our teams just wanted the opportunity to compete this year, and our goal was to give everyone that chance … We’ve demonstrated that we’ve been able to be on campus and be safe and take this step forward.”
Ticket availability and information will be announced at a later date. For more information, visit FurmanPaladins.com.