Tuesday at 9:30pm, we announced that a new school in the the Southeast region would be adding a DI program. The school turned out to be Furman University. Furman is one of the oldest institutions in South Carolina. Founded in 1826, Furman enrolls approximately 2,800 undergraduate and 525 graduate students on its 750-acre campus. Furman already boasts 18 men’s and women’s NCAA Division I teams.
We had the pleasure to interview someone very close to the situation. We asked Furman alum and current Upstate Regional Director for the South Carolina Chapter of US Lacrosse, Corey Gheesling, a few questions to get a better understanding of what lead to the school’s decision.
What is your affiliation with Furman?
I am a 2010 graduate from Furman University. I’m from a Furman family, my father played football from 1978-1981. My wife graduated the same year and was the Southern Conference Player of the Year for volleyball. Needless to say Furman athletics runs deep in our family.
I am currently the Assistant Director of Excell lacrosse, the premier travel team in South Carolina, as well as the head coach for Mauldin High School, located in Greenville. I serve as the Upstate’s Regional Director for the South Carolina Chapter of US Lacrosse.
Did you play at Furman? What can you tell us about Furman lacrosse history?
I played club lacrosse at FU for my first three years at school before my teacher education program necessitated I cut out some of my activities on campus. Our best season was in 2007 when we made it to the SELC Championships in Atlanta and put a few players on the All-Conference list. Furman was one of the original members of the SELC, so lacrosse goes back a long way. In addition, many Furman students come from Washington D.C., Charlotte, Atlanta, and Baltimore/Annapolis, so the average student’s lacrosse exposure is fairly high.
Is there a big lacrosse following at the school/area?
A large concentration of all the high school lacrosse programs in the state are located within thirty miles of Furman in the Greenville/Spartanburg area. Youth lacrosse is growing like a weed throughout the state and especially in the Charleston and Greenville areas. The sport is growing at a high rate in the major population centers in the state and is drastically changing the youth athletics atmosphere all around the state. Furman is two hours from Charlotte and two hours from Atlanta and hopes to tap into those scenes. Furman adding lacrosse will continue to spur the high rate of growth the sport has seen in the Southeast, while also opening up yet another opportunity for local players to showcase their talents.
What were the biggest factors for Furman deciding to go D1? What obstacles did the school encounter?
There will be a press conference this Thursday at 10am where the President and AD will address these specific questions.
I do know that Furman is seeking to expand its footprint outside of the Southeast, specifically in the Northeast and the Western regions. Knowing that, adding lacrosse is a great vehicle to expand the Furman name in these regions where lacrosse is, rightly, one of the most dynamic and popular sports for both men and women.
Who will be directing the lacrosse program? Will you look for a coach from a D1 program?
I’m sure they will address that at the news conference on Thursday and will likely commence a nationwide search.
Who has been the biggest proponent of the team going D1?
President Smolla himself was the primary proponent. He was a Yale undergrad and was the Dean of the Washington and Lee Law School, so his exposure and understanding of lacrosse runs many years. The University has reached out to the lacrosse community in the area for advice and the school is excited about lacrosse.
Will the team be independent or join a league?
I believe the AD and the future Coach will have more info on this issue at a later time.
Where do most of the players come from?
Most players on the club team came from Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Miami, Richmond, the DC area, and Ohio. Most students hail from these regions plus, Birmingham, Dallas, Nashville, Richmond, New Jersey.
What are you and the school hoping to gain most?
As a high school coach in the area, I am tremendously excited about the amount of lacrosse capital that will enter the Greenville area and the state as a whole. More people will understand the sport. Some future Furman grads will likely stay in the area and will give back to the game as is par for the course in our sport.
I’m excited my players will have access to a Division 1 program in our backyard. Being exposed to high levels of the sport is huge for a young player in a developing area like South Carolina. I’m looking forward to more of our homegrown talent getting quality exposure to play at the collegiate ranks. As a Furman alum, I am excited about more people knowing Furman as an elite institution outside of the Southeast. I’m excited about what Furman gives to the lacrosse community: an amazing institution of higher learning, education for life, and by far, the best school cheer of all time: FU One Time, FU Two Times, FU Three Times, FU ALL THE TIME!
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