Just weeks before Furman kicks off its 2021 season, an anonymous donor has made a $1 million gift to the football program. It is the third $1 million gift made to the football program since Clay Hendrix ’86 was named Bobby Johnson Head Football Coach in late 2016, and the gift will help to further fuel the football program’s growing momentum.
“I want to get behind Clay and really support what he’s trying to accomplish, on and off the field,” the donor said. “It will help keep his staff intact, which will assist in the recruiting process and help put a better product on the field.”
The gift will be used to advance the most strategic needs of the football program, both immediately and long-term. Spending strategies will be determined at Hendrix’s discretion in consultation with Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly, and could include student-athlete experience, scholarships, capital improvements, coach compensation and bonuses, travel, equipment and recruiting.
“Furman football has a proud and storied tradition on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” said Donnelly. “Our former players, our alumni and our fans continue to propel us forward, as evidenced by a generous anonymous donor who was inspired to give back to continue our success under the leadership of Clay Hendrix.”
Such support is critical as Hendrix continues to once again position Furman as a perennial Southern Conference championship contender. Since taking over a team that won just three games in 2016, Hendrix has taken the Paladins to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs twice (2017, 2019) while winning one Southern Conference championship (2018) and collecting one conference coach of the year award (2017).
Spend much time around Furman’s football program these days, and the signs of a continued resurgence are unmistakable. Progress is clearly visible at Paladin Stadium, the venerable on-campus stadium where the football team plays its home games. A series of upgrades funded by a mix of institutional sources and donors culminated in the installation in June of FieldTurf, a new state-of-the-art playing surface that can be found in seven NFL stadiums.
Indeed, as Hendrix enters his fifth season at the helm, Furman’s football program is clearly on the move.
“Furman football is very appreciative of this generous gift to our program,” Hendrix said. “It demonstrates the confidence our supporters have in what we are accomplishing both on and off the field — competing for and winning championships, maintaining high academic standards for our players and making a difference in young men’s lives.”
No program has won more Southern Conference football championships than Furman’s 14. The program has won one NCAA Division I-AA/FCS national championship and finished runner-up two other times, most recently in 2001.
Hendrix played at Furman from 1982-86, part of a glorious run for the program. The Paladins were the unquestioned kings of the Southern Conference, winning nine league titles between 1978-90 and the national championship in 1988. Hendrix played on three of those conference championship teams and was an assistant coach on the national title team.
“I feel really good about the program, and I’m very happy the school stuck with a Furman guy,” the donor said. “A number of the players know how fortunate they are that Clay’s their head coach, and all of them will realize that later on in life.”
Furman opens the 2021 season at home against North Carolina A&T State University on Saturday, Sept. 4. Kickoff is 2 p.m.