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‘FU all the time’: Why you should root for this March Madness underdog

Mike Bothwell (3) has helped lead Furman to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1980. | John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They don’t have a single player from west of the Mississippi River, and there’s only a 12.5% chance they’ll be playing in Sacramento, the only NCAA Tournament site within reasonable driving distance for Bay Area basketball fans when March Madness tips off next week.

But that shouldn’t stop you from supporting the Furman Paladins.

The South Carolina school of approximately 2,500 students is known for its picturesque campus and edgy-yet-wholesome chant of “FU all the time!” The Paladins won the Southern Conference Tournament after losing at the buzzer in 2022, and will be making their first tournament appearance since 1980.

Sure, they could be done in the tournament after just one game, like most double-digit seeds. But there’s always that slim chance they make a magical run, like Saint Peter’s did last year and as Florida Gulf Coast did with its famed “Dunk City” team in 2013.

Today, Furman is known as a liberal arts school that ended its Baptist affiliation in 1992. The school was originally incorporated in the 1820s, but closed multiple times during its first few decades, including a stretch in the 1860s when many of its students and faculty went to fight in the Civil War—yes, for that side.

For those who see the school’s Southern roots and immediately look on with a sense of disdain, it’s worth noting that the school has done its part to address its skeletons in the closet. In 2021, the school erected a statue of Joseph Vaughn, who became the university’s first Black student in 1965, after approving recommendations from the university’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice, which had been formed three years before the wave of similar committees spurred by the George Floyd protests.

“The Furman University that stood in the 1960s is not the Furman University that stands here today,” said Qwameek Bethea, then-president of the school’s NAACP chapter, at the statue’s unveiling.

JP Pegues (1) plays for the Furman Paladins, who could be a Cinderella story at the 2023 NCAA Tournament. | John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As for the team, the ‘Dins are led by a pair of fifth-year seniors in a world where transfers have become the norm. While most college rosters are filled with players attending their third university, only one player at Furman, backup guard Carter Whitt, is a transfer, something sure to satisfy fans who yearn for college basketball to return to its pre-transfer days.

The stars to know are Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell. Slawson, a fifth-year forward from the Charleston suburb of Summerville, averaged 15.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season en route to being named SoCon Player of the Year. Bothwell, a fifth-year guard from Cleveland, also made the All-Southern Conference First Team after averaging 18 points per game.

If the five-year players finally getting a chance to represent their school on college basketball’s biggest stage doesn’t do it for you, the school’s chant should be enough to sway even the most casual of fans. Former university president Dr. John E. Johns repurposed a chant he had previously used at Stetson, leading fans at football games in calls of, “FU one time! FU two times! FU three times! FU all the time!”

While other university presidents have been less bullish about the chant, it has been utilized on the back of football helmets in recent years, and popular brand Homefield Apparel sells an “FU All The Time” shirt.

While the odds of a deep run may not be high, you can count on one thing for sure—if the Paladins are chosen to play at Golden 1 Center come Selection Sunday, I’ll be right there wearing purple and chanting “FU All The Time!”