Monte Lee: Furman Cutting Baseball 'Devastating Blow' for State
Furman University’s decision to cut the baseball program Monday hit Clemson coach Monte Lee hard.
Coaches in the college baseball-rich state of South Carolina are a “close-knit” group. Lee and Furman coach Brett Harker both went through College of Charleston about a decade apart but have known each other for years.
“He was on his way at Furman to doing some tremendous things,” Lee said. “I called him and just told him, ‘Hey man, I’m so sorry this has happened. I can’t imagine how you feel.’ His response to me was, ‘I’m going to be OK. I’m just worried about our players.’ That just kind of shows you what kind of man Brett Harker is. I was surprised at how strong he is to handle this situation.”
Paladins assistant coach Andrew Cox played for Lee at Clemson. Lee reached out to Cox after the announcement as well.
“I love him to death,” Lee said.
Lee and his Tiger staff watched, recruited and built relationships with many of Furman’s players when they were in high school.
“You just really, really feel for those kids to have this type of situation happen to them and hopefully they’ll land on their feet and get a chance to play somewhere else,” Lee said. “It’s a pretty devastating blow throughout our state.”
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are undoubtedly going to reshape sports at many colleges nationwide, but this one hit home. Furman, which also cut its men’s lacrosse team, had been playing baseball since 1896 and was a regular opponent for Clemson, something Lee said the Tigers looked forward to each season.
“We know we’re going to have two games on our schedule with Furman,” Lee said. “We’re going to go play at Fluor Field in the (Greenville Drive) pro park and we’re going to play them at home. Now that’s done. It’s just sad to see that it got to that point.”
Lee said he isn’t sure exactly what happened at Furman, whether there was a financial crisis or if it was ultimately a gender-equality issue related to Title IX.
Bowling Green announced last week that it was also cutting its baseball program, and now there’s a push by alumni to help save it. There’s been no word from Furman if that’s an option.
Losing any program is a scary new reality in college sports, and it’s one Lee is hoping doesn’t become a trend.
“There are going to be other programs,” Lee said. “It’s bad for our game. I hate to see it happen to any program.”