TRAVELERS REST, S.C. — An anonymous donor has given Furman University a $1 million gift to support the Paladins’ football program and honor the legacy of former head football coach Bobby Johnson.
In addition to establishing a $1 million endowment that will provide continuous annual funding for the football program, the donor wanted the gift to honor Johnson, who served as Furman’s head coach from 1994 through 2001.
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Furman Athletics Director Mike Buddie said the gift will establish the Bobby Johnson Head Football Coaching Endowment. The commitment will also count toward the recently launched Football Championship Fund, which was created to provide increased financial support for the program.
“I am thrilled to be able to announce such a transformative gift to support our program,” Buddie said. “The Clay Hendrix era is about to begin, and to be able to announce this gift, in honor of coach Johnson, is a great reminder of the proud history of championship level football at Furman.”
Johnson spent 24 years as a football coach at Furman, including eight as head coach, and he was involved in one of the most successful periods in Paladin football history. He came to Furman in 1976 as an assistant coach under Art Baker, and later served on the staffs of Dick Sheridan (1978-80; 82-85) and Jimmy Satterfield (1986-92), before being named the program’s head coach in 1994.
As an assistant coach, Johnson played a key role in Furman compiling a 132-53-7 record over 16 years, which included a NCAA I-AA (FCS) national championship in 1988. As head coach, he compiled a 60-36 record and led the team to three playoff appearances, two Southern Conference championships and a national championship runner-up finish in 2001. All told, he played a significant role in 10 of Furman’s 13 conference football crowns during his 24 seasons.
Johnson also served as head coach at Vanderbilt for eight seasons (2002-09), helping lead a Commodore program to its first winning season since 1982 and its first bowl victory since 1955. A native of Columbia and a graduate of Clemson University, he is a member of both the Furman and South Carolina athletics halls of fame. Johnson currently serves on the NCAA Football Playoff Committee.
“I’m deeply honored and extremely appreciative of this wonderful gift made in support of Furman football, a program that for decades has been a model of achievement and blessed with outstanding young men, and whose bright future will be strengthened and secured through this tremendous generosity,” Johnson said.
“We are extremely grateful for this generous gift to Furman football in honor of coach Johnson,” said Hendrix ’86, who played at Furman under Johnson and is in his first year as the Paladins’ head coach. “It honors our tradition of excellence and demonstrates the belief in the direction of our program.”
Buddie and Hendrix kicked off the Furman Football Championship Fund in February with a five-city tour that included stops in Charleston, Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte. While the initial goal of $1 million was realized with the anonymous gift, Buddie said the university will continue its fundraising efforts in support of the football program.
“We’re excited about the future of Furman football, and we will continue to provide the kind of financial support the program needs to move forward,” he said.
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