GREENVILLE, S.C. – There is no doubt the Furman University football program is on a roll.
In addition to just completing its first winning season since 2013 and qualifying for the NCAA FCS playoffs, the program has received its second $1 million gift in the span of five months.
Furman Athletics Director Mike Buddie announced Thursday that the $1 million gift from an anonymous donor will establish the John Bagwell Offensive Coordinator Endowment. The contribution is made in honor of the late Bagwell ’89, a standout Paladin running back who died in a car accident in 2003.
“It’s gratifying to announce another major gift to benefit the football program,” Buddie said. “This most recent contribution will honor the legacy and memory of John Bagwell, an outstanding football player who was instrumental in the Paladins winning the 1988 national championship. It will also provide substantial financial support for the program as head coach Clay Hendrix works to build a championship level program.”
Furman also received a $1 million gift at the end of August 2017 that established the Bobby Johnson Head Football Coaching Endowment. Johnson, who is now retired, served as head coach from 1994 through 2001 and spent a total of 24 years on the coaching staff at Furman.
Buddie said both gifts count toward the recently launched Football Championship Fund, which was created to provide increased financial support for the program.
Bagwell, a running back who played at Furman from 1984 through 1988, was a four-year letterman and a two-year starter for the Paladins. He was an All-Southern Conference first team selection in 1987, as well as a member of two league championship teams (1985 and 1988).
The 1985 Paladins went 12-2 and finished as national runner-up, while the 1988 team won the NCAA I-AA (now FCS) national championship and posted a 13-2 record. Bagwell rushed for a Furman playoff record four touchdowns in the 44-42 loss to Georgia Southern in the 1985 national championship game. He was a recipient of Furman’s Purple Heart Award in 1987 and the Iron Horse Award in 1988.
Bagwell began his coaching career as an assistant at Summerville High School, his alma mater, and later served as Fort Dorchester High School’s first head coach beginning in 1992. He was named Region 6-AAAA Coach of the Year in 2000 after helping guide Fort Dorchester to the school’s first region football title. The football stadium at Fort Dorchester was named Bagwell Stadium on Nov. 7, 2003, in memory of John, and his late father, Howard Bagwell.
“Furman football is so appreciative and thankful for this generous gift,” Hendrix said. “I believe it further exemplifies the excitement about the direction of our program. I also believe this is a wonderful way to honor one of our all-time greats. Anyone who ever saw John Bagwell play would testify to that. I was fortunate to both play with and later coach John. What is even more fitting is that a classmate of his—George Quarles—will be the first coach to serve in the position named for him.”
The Paladins finished the 2017 season with an 8-5 record and a victory over Elon in the first round of the FCS playoffs. A total of 13 players were named All-Southern Conference – running back Antonio Wilcox, offensive guard Terrell Bush, center Matthew Schmidt and tight end Andy Schumpert were first-team selections – and Schmidt received the league’s Jacobs Blocking Award. Hendrix was also named Southern Conference Coach of the Year.