By: Sammy Clough, Sports Editor
Furman football began its season against Upstate neighbor Clemson University last Saturday, Sept. 1. The Tigers, ranked number two in the Associated Press preseason poll, walked away from Saturday’s battle with the Paladins with a decisive 48-7 victory.
The historic matchup began at the two teams first game on Halloween 1896, with Saturday’s game marking the ninth season opening meeting between the schools. Furman has beaten the Tigers 10 times; however, their last victory came in 1932 when William Joseph McGlothlin was that school’s president, FDR was in the White House, and a can of pork and beans was only 7 cents. Needless to say, victory was a long shot for the Paladins, but they fought hard, and Furman beat the pregame 42.5-point spread.
The Paladin defense began the game strong, forcing Clemson into two, fourth down situations on their first possession, eventually leading to a turnover on downs. The first quarter finished with a 10-0 Clemson lead that would increase steadily as the game progressed.
As we walk away from the 41-point loss suffered by Furman in the season opener the questions should not be about Clemson’s ranking or Furman’s offense moving forward. Instead we should ask the question: what is the price to play? How much player-safety are we willing to risk in return for national exposure and a big payout?
According to The Greenville News, Furman received a $360,000 payout from Clemson for driving the 35 miles down to Death Valley to face the second-ranked Tigers. While this amount of money seems staggering, it is actually very common for schools to receive such large sums, and it is not nearly as much as other FCS payouts around the nation. Last year, Clemson payed Kent State $800,000 to play them in the 2017 season opener.
You may ask, why did Furman not receive that mammoth amount of money? Well, you have to take into account that Kent State had to travel all the way from Ohio while Furman made the bus trip in less than an hour. Also, Furman was most likely willing to take less because of the added regional exposure the Paladins got in the Upstate for recruiting. However, this still leaves us to question if it is worth the payday to play a school whose student body outnumbers ours by 20,000 and whose recruiting scope spans the nation.
“We knew their [defensive] line was going to be bigger and faster than us,” said redshirt-freshman quarterback JeMar Lincoln. Lincoln saw his first game action for the Paladin offense last Saturday recording 16 yards passing and 13 yards rushing in limited snaps under center. “You just gotta buckle up your chin strap,” Lincoln added, “there’s no intimidation; they put on their pads the same way as us.”
Furman Athletic Director Mike Buddie also commented on scheduling big FBS programs like Clemson. “It’s not fair to our players to do more than one a season,” Buddie stated, “but it gives us an opportunity against the highest level of competition.”
While a lopsided defeat is more-times-than-not the outcome of one of these FCS-FBS matchups, the chance for an upset victory and national recognition is always on the table. Many remember the 2015 Paladin defeat of UCF in Orlando after a school-record 55-yard field goal from Jon Croft Hollingsworth.
Buddie added that these high-profile matchups are, “a good place for recruiting,” as well as a nice payday for Furman. They give young fans watching the games possibly their first look at Furman athletics, and might plant the seed of recruitment in their head early.
Whether the price to play is worth it or not, the Paladins need to get in the ice bath, put the loss behind them and prepare for the remainder of their FCS schedule.
“[Clemson] was a huge learning experience,” Lincoln concluded, “we got some great film from that game and it was really a good confidence booster.”
Furman looks to put that nationally ranked confidence to good use as they face Elon Saturday, Sept. 8 in North Carolina followed by their home opener at Paladin Stadium Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. against Colgate.