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What is a Paladin? Explaining the origin of Furman’s nickname, mascot history

The Dins are dancing.

For only the seventh time in program history, Furman will be competing in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Furman is coming off an impressive 2022-23 campaign, where it finished the season 27-7 overall with a 15-3 conference record. The Paladins won a share of the regular-season title and further established their Southern Conference supremacy by winning the conference tournament.

As the Furman men’s basketball team prepares to step onto its biggest stage facing No. 4 Virginia in the tournament, there is likely to be one major question on everyone’s mind: What, exactly, is a Paladin?

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The Sporting News is hoping to shed some light on Furman’s unique team name and mascot.

Why is Furman’s nickname the Paladins?

Furman used to have a variety of nicknames for their athletics. According to the school’s student newspaper, The Paladin, before 1961, the baseball team was called the Hornets, the football team was the Hurricane and the basketball team was the Paladins. The basketball’s team name dated back to a sportswriter in Greenville, South Carolina, who used the term Paladin to describe the team.

There had been plenty of requests to unite the athletic programs under the same nickname, according to the school’s library. At last, in 1961, students were asked to vote on a universal name for the athletics program. The decision: Paladin.

The football team has still had other nicknames, due to its colors that were officially voted to be purple in the 1890s, per Furman. The team was often nicknamed the Purple Fighters and the Purple Hurricanes before eventually becoming the Paladins.

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What is a Paladin?

To put it simply, a paladin is a knight. Specifically, the origins of the paladin date back to the 8th century.

As The Paladin writes, a paladin is described as a “paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion; a strong supporter or defender of a cause; and any of the 12 peers of French emperor Charlemagne’s court,” according to the American Heritage College Dictionary.

The Furman library also noted that paladins are described as courageous and daring men, and that they were people of “outstanding worth of quality who are firm in support of some cause or objective.”

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What is Furman’s mascot?

Furman’s mascot comes out onto the court or field wearing a suit of armor to represent the Paladin.

For a time, it was an actual, 100-pound suit of armor worn by Dave Hanson, who was a former professional jouster, at football games, according to the Greenville News. Hanson would come riding out on a white horse called Fury.

The Paladin reported that while the full suit of armor will still be seen, the mascot also now wears a more traditional mascot costume that is made to look like a knight. 


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