By: Reagan Basil, Contributor
Highlighting athletic achievment throughout Furman’s
Many might remember 1988 as the year that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish won the NCAA Division 1-A National Championship. However, that same year, in the NCAA Division 1-AA, or more commonly known as the FCS, the Furman Paladins won the National Championship.
1988 was Furman’s first and only football championship. Previously, the Paladins appeared in the title game three years earlier, but were defeated by Georgia Southern 44-42. After losing in the first round of the FCS in 1986, and missing it entirely the next season, Furman bounced back, having one of their best seasons ever. They compiled an overall record of 13-2 (losing only to the Clemson Tigers and the Marshall Thundering Herd) and a 6-1 record in conference play, allowing them to clinch the Southern Conference over Marshall. In the FCS playoffs, they were the fourth overall seed in the tournament behind Western Illinois, Georgia Southern and Idaho. In round one, Furman hosted the Delaware Blue Hens, easily beating them 21-7; the Paladins then defeated conference-rival Marshall 13-9 in the following round. In the semi-finals, Furman was paired against the Idaho Vandals, and outscored the Vandals, 38-7. For the championship, the ‘Dins had to face the Georgia Southern Eagles in a rematch of three years prior.
The game took place at a neutral site, the Minidome in Pocatello, Idaho, now known as the Holt Arena on the campus of Idaho State University. In just his third season as the Furman head coach, Jimmy Satterfield coached a beauty and lead his team to victory, defeating the Eagles 17-12 for Furman’s first national title. Upon the return of the team to Greenville, a parade of purple floats celebrating the championship streamed right down Main Street.
One of the main contributors and leaders on the 1988 ‘Dins squad was cornerback Julius Dixon, a senior who had endured the 1985 championship loss during his freshman year.
“I stood on the sideline after that loss to Georgia Southern, and it was burning in me for three years to get back to that championship game.” Dixon said. The win in 1988 made the moment, as he said, “even more special.”
Furman has returned to the FCS title game on one other occasion in 2001, but lost to the University of Montana. While the players on the 1988 squad no longer walk this campus, their accomplishments of thirty years ago still live on today in Paladin football lore.