Dr. Gary Clark cannot count all of the decisions he made through the past 15 years while serving as the director of athletics at Furman University. Yet Clark contended that each decision was guided by a simple principle: It may not be easy. It may not be popular, but it must be in the best interest of Furman.
Clark’s latest decision may have been the most difficult of his tenure, but it was guided by that same principle.
On Monday, Clark announced plans to step down from his position.
“I enjoy coming to work every day, but it just got to be where I was sensing I didn’t have that same excitement, which just isn’t fair to the job, to me or to Furman,” Clark said. “If you would’ve asked me this time last year or even back in September, I probably would not have thought I would end up coming to this conclusion. All of a sudden, you realize it’s time. It’s time for Furman. It’s time for me. It’s time for a new voice.”
According to Furman president Elizabeth Davis, the university has organized a search committee and selected a consulting firm, Collegiate Sports Associates, to assist in the pursuit of Clark’s replacement.
Clark said, after his successor arrives, he will shift into a new position at the university, which he and Davis have not yet defined clearly.
“Although I was ready for a change in the type of job I’m doing, I’ve always loved Furman and still enjoy the idea of coming to Furman on a daily basis,” said Clark, a 1974 Furman graduate. “There are several areas where she felt like my experience and skills would be able to contribute and asked if I would consider taking on a different role.”
Furman has compiled 85 Southern Conference regular-season championships. Thirty were earned during Clark’s tenure. That included football titles in 2001, 2004 and 2013. During that same 15-year span, Furman teams appeared in 48 postseason tournaments.
Clark also directed the athletic department through the formation of men’s and women’s lacrosse programs, the acquisition of head coaches Bruce Fowler (football), Niko Medved (men’s basketball) and Jackie Carson (women’s basketball) and the construction of the Pearce-Horton Football Complex at Paladin Stadium.
“We’re on solid ground,” Clark said. “All of our programs are trending in the right direction. We’ve got some real successes, and we’ve got some that are just around the corner. It just comes a point in time where I think having somebody come in with a new energy and vision will help really enhance what we’re already doing.”
According to the university, the search committee is composed of Davis, vice president for development Mike Gatchell and health sciences professor Bill Pierce, the faculty athletics representative. Trustees Robert Hill and Alec Taylor, along with former Furman football coach Bobby Johnson, will serve as advisory members of the search committee.
Clark will not contribute directly to the search, but he said he would offer support and insight as needed to ensure his successor is equipped to maintain Furman’s position as a competitor on and off the field.
“Every organization evolves over time,” Clark said. “Looking with hindsight, you might make different decisions, but I really think the decisions we made were the right ones at the moment. We’re in good shape.
“Furman kids do great things, and being a part of helping them learn how to do that and learn who they are is what I enjoyed most. If you’re in this business and you don’t enjoy that, you’re in the wrong place.”