Art Baker was one of the world’s most revered figures in college football, best-known as former Furman head coach who spearheaded an incredible turnaround during his tenure from December 1972 – making the Paladins from struggling squad to symbol of football excellence and creating the foundation of future success for their program over half-a-century. Art passed away at 94. His contributions will remain undiminished in college football as an indelible legacy is left.
Baker was nothing short of miraculous in his debut season at Furman. Starting off as head coach when taking over an underperforming 2-9 team, he led them to an astounding 7-4 record under him; garnering national attention as the most improved football program that season. Baker finished up as head coach from 1973 until 1977 with an admirable 27-24-4 mark to show for it; yet his influence went far beyond these statistics as his vision and leadership fundamentally transformed Paladin football, creating the framework that has supported decades of success since.
A Coaching Tree That Transformed Paladin Football
Art Baker was most notable in Furman football for more than his own coaching achievements; rather it was his skill at discovering and cultivating coaching talent that stood out the most. Many assistant coaches he hired became staples within Paladin football over time; names like Dick Sheridan, Jimmy Satterfield and Bobby Johnson were influential contributors that guided Furman football for almost 25 years after Baker had left office.
Sheridan, Baker’s successor, led Furman Paladins to six Southern Conference championships and a second place finish in 1985 NCAA FCS nationals over eight seasons, before Satterfield took over and led Furman to three Southern Conference titles and won nationals in 1988 under him. Following Satterfield was Johnson, who led Furman to two more league titles as well as another second-place national finish (2001). Bobby Lamb, Bruce Fowler, and Clay Hendrix who all served under Satterfield and Johnson continue the legacy.
Art Baker: More Than a Coach
Art Baker left an indelible mark on Furman football beyond coaching alone. He played an essential part in creating its iconic Diamond F logo – now an emblem synonymous with Paladin athletics – during its 50-year existence. Baker himself epitomizes Furman athletics’ spirit and tradition while his unique ability to combine coaching excellence with brand awareness left an indelible imprint on this institution.
Baker was an impressive coach before arriving at Furman. Before becoming Furman’s head coach in 1973, he served as an assistant coach at Texas Tech and Clemson and held head coaching roles at The Citadel and East Carolina. A standout footballer at Presbyterian College who graduated in 1953, Baker combined both personal athletic experience with strategic coaching acumen into an inspiring coaching journey that brought success at both high school and collegiate football levels.
A Legacy Cemented in the Hall of Fame
Art Baker was honored for his contributions to sports when he was honored with induction into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, an appropriately fitting tribute to an influential coach who not only transformed teams he led but also the lives of players he mentored. His coaching philosophy-characterized by character, discipline and excellence – left its mark on college football for good.
Art Baker was an iconic coach – his influence resonated with players of all generations across college football, both locally at Furman University and beyond. While we mourn his passing as coaches do so often do, Art’s legacy lives on through those whom he mentored along the way and the programs which benefitted. While Furman community mourn his departure they should also celebrate what a fantastic life he lived. He truly was more than a coach; rather a true icon within college football culture!