GREENVILLE, S.C. — As the COVID-19 shutdown continues across the nation, several colleges and universities have begun chopping their athletic budgets.
The latest on the chopping block, Furman University baseball and men's lacrosse.
The Palmetto State university made the announcement on Monday that it would not only cut those two programs but implement furloughs across the board, including cutting the salaries of the president and senior administrators.
The cuts have hit close to home as former Gainesville baseball standout and current Paladin infielder Banks Griffith now finds himself benched for good.
He said on Tuesday that he was "completely blindsided" by the news.
"I think we were all blindsided, even our coaching staff," Griffith said. "We had a called meeting with only like two hours notice."
The sophomore infielder will begin his search to find another place to play baseball in the future but, for now, he said adjusting to reality is the hardest part.
"These next few days will be slow for everyone," he said. "Our coaches are adjusting to reality. We are adjusting to reality. I would love to play baseball again, so I'm leaving all my options open. It's going to be an interesting next few weeks."
Jason Donnelly, director of athletics at Furman, said, in a statement on the Paladin website that it's been a difficult time for the athletic department.
"We are proud of Furman's athletics history and tradition and the student-athletes and coaches who have competed as Paladins," he said. "Moving forward, Furman Athletics will operate as an 18-sport varsity program that supports academic and athletic excellence, financial stability, gender equity and sustainable competitive success with an emphasis on revenue generation and philanthropy."
Furman has assured baseball and lacrosse players that they will honor scholarships and will help them in the transition. They've also said the university will honor incoming freshmen that have signed a letter of intent to play baseball or lacrosse.
Lakeview Academy's Andrew Estes signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Furman earlier this year.
But, for Griffith and his teammates, the assurance of a scholarship only comes as a consolation prize.
"That's a nice touch they added," Griffith said. "So, that leaves that door open in case nothing comes through."
"Obviously, when things like this happen, it takes us a few days to regroup and get back on our feet. But I'm sure I'll land on my feet and be OK. I'm going to stay optimistic about the future and open my options. If nothing falls the way it should, I have to live with that. There's nothing I can do at this point."
As disheartening as it may be, Griffith, one of three brothers -- Sims and Ryan -- to play baseball at Furman, says he's made several memories in his two years as a Paladin
"I think it's just more than the play on the field, just the relationships I've built with my player and coaches," he said. It's been a surreal experience at Furman ... just from both of my bothers attending and playing baseball and me being a legacy. It's just been an awesome experience, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Griffith finishes his career at Furman with 71 starts, batting .226 with 38 RBIs and a .967 fielding percentage.
"When all this started back in March, we hoped that we would have played the rest of the year," he said. "We tried to anticipate every situation that could happen, but when it was completely canceled, we were devastated."